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July 1995

Mental Illness and Suicide: A Case-Control Study in East Taiwan

Author Affiliations

From the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1995;52(7):594-603. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1995.03950190076011

Background:  As part of the Taiwan Aboriginal Study Project, a case-control study of suicide among two aboriginal groups and the Han Chinese was carried out in East Taiwan.

Methods:  Biographical reconstructive interviews were conducted for consecutive suicides from each of the three ethnic groups (a total of 116 suicides), 113 of whom were matched with two controls for age, sex, and area of residence.

Results:  In all three groups, a high proportion of suicides suffered from mental illness before committing suicide (97% to 100%). The two most prevalent psychiatric disorders were depression and alcoholism, and the most common comorbid pattern was depression with substance use disorders. The risk for suicide was significantly associated with all of these psychiatric conditions, previous suicide attempts, and a family history of suicide and depression. Fifty-one percent of all suicides had consulted medical professionals in the previous month.

Conclusion:  Despite the widely different rates of depressive illness and alcoholism in different cultures previously reported, the psychiatric antecedents of suicide are the same in the West and the East.

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