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Original Article
December 2006

Antidepressants and the Risk of Suicide, Attempted Suicide, and Overall Mortality in a Nationwide Cohort

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Kuopio and Niuvanniemi Hospital, and Department of Clinical Physiology, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio (Dr Tiihonen); Department of Psychiatry, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Central Hospital (Drs Tiihonen and Lönnqvist), Department of Mental Health and Alcohol Research, National Public Health Institute (Drs Lönnqvist and Haukka and Mr Tanskanen), National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES) (Dr Wahlbeck), and The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Dr Klaukka), Helsinki; and Psychiatric Unit, Vaasa Central Hospital, Vaasa (Dr Wahlbeck), Finland.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63(12):1358-1367. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.63.12.1358
Abstract

Background  It is unknown if antidepressant treatment is associated with either increased or decreased risk of suicide.

Objective  To estimate the risk of suicide, attempted suicide, and overall mortality during antidepressant treatments in a real-life setting with high statistical power.

Design and Setting  A cohort study in which all subjects without psychosis, hospitalized because of a suicide attempt from January 1, 1997, to December 31, 2003, in Finland, were followed up through a nationwide computerized database.

Participants  A total of 15 390 patients with a mean follow-up of 3.4 years.

Main Outcome Measures  The propensity score–adjusted relative risks (RRs) during monotherapy with the most frequently used antidepressants compared with no antidepressant treatment.

Results  In the entire cohort, fluoxetine use was associated with the lowest risk (RR, 0.52; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.30-0.93), and venlafaxine hydrochloride use with the highest risk (RR, 1.61; 95% CI, 1.01-2.57), of suicide. A substantially lower mortality was observed during selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use (RR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.49-0.71; P<.001), and this was attributable to a decrease in cardiovascular- and cerebrovascular-related deaths (RR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.24-0.71; P=.001). Among subjects who had ever used any antidepressant, the current use of medication was associated with a markedly increased risk of attempted suicide (39%, P<.001), but also with a markedly decreased risk of completed suicide (−32%, P=.002) and mortality (−49%, P<.001), when compared with no current use of medication. The results for subjects aged 10 to 19 years were basically the same as those in the total population, except for an increased risk of death with paroxetine hydrochloride use (RR, 5.44; 95% CI, 2.15-13.70; P<.001).

Conclusions  Among suicidal subjects who had ever used antidepressants, the current use of any antidepressant was associated with a markedly increased risk of attempted suicide and, at the same time, with a markedly decreased risk of completed suicide and death. Lower mortality was attributable to a decrease in cardiovascular- and cerebrovascular-related deaths during selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use.

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