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15-04-2010 | Mental health | Article

Suicide risk increased in older adults with schizophrenia


Free abstract

MedWire News: The increased risk for suicide commonly associated with schizophrenia in young people appears to continue into later life, US study findings show.

Carl Cohen and colleagues, from State University of New York in Brooklyn, found a higher prevalence of current and lifetime “suicidality” among a group of schizophrenia patients aged at least 55 years compared with nonschizophrenic individuals.

The study also showed that current syndromal depression and higher scores on the Traumatic Victimization Scale predicted the risk for lifetime suicide attempts in patients with schizophrenia.

“The relative paucity of risk factors means that practitioners can more easily focus their therapeutic efforts on at-risk individuals,” say the researchers.

The study participants comprised 198 people who developed schizophrenia before the age of 45 years and a community comparison group of 113 individuals without mental health disorders.

The schizophrenia patients had a prevalence of current lifetime suicidality, defined as wanting to be dead, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts, of 10% compared with a prevalence of just 2% in the comparison group. The respective lifetime prevalence was 56% versus 7%. Schizophrenia patients were also more likely to have attempted suicide in the past, at a prevalence of 30% compared with 4% in the comparison group.

Of 15 predictor variables identified, only two were significantly associated with lifetime suicide attempts.

Specifically, a higher percentage of schizophrenia patients with lifetime suicide attempts had a score of at least 16 on the Center for Epidemiological Studies of Depression Scale, at 47% versus 27% of individuals in the comparison group, giving an odds ratio of 2.39.

Schizophrenia patients with lifetime suicide attempts also had a higher average score on the Trauma and Victimization Scale of 4.8, compared with 3.0 for schizophrenia patients with no suicide attempts, giving an odds ratio for a higher score of 1.13.

“Thus, from a clinical perspective, more aggressive pharmacotherapy and/or psychotherapy for depression and for those persons with prior traumatic events may have the potential to decrease the risk of suicidality in older adults with schizophrenia,” the researchers conclude in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lucy Piper

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