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09-08-2011 | Psychology | Article

DLEs linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviour


Free abstract

MedWire News: Delusional-like experiences (DLEs) are associated with an increased risk for suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts in the general population, Australian research shows.

"It has long been appreciated that individuals with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia are at increased risk of suicide compared to the general population," write John McGrath (University of Queensland, St Lucia) and team in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

However, they add that it is not known whether psychotic-type experiences in the general population are associated with risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

To investigate, the team studied data from the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007. In total, 8773 participants, aged 16-85 years, completed the survey, which included questions on suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts.

Grandiose delusions, and delusions of control, reference, and persecution were assessed using three screen items followed by three probe items. Participants who responded positively to any of the screen items were administered the related probe item.

Overall, 8.4% of the participants reported at least one DLE, and 12.9%, 3.8%, and 3.0% reported suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts, respectively, at some point in their lives.

The researchers found that DLEs were significantly associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviour. Indeed, participants with at least one DLE were 2.12, 2.37, and 1.99 times more likely to report suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts, respectively, than those who did not report DLEs.

The increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviour associated with DLEs remained significant after accounting for age, gender, marital status, migrant status, alcohol abuse/dependence, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and traumatic life events.

The team also found that there was a dose-response effect to the relationship, such that a greater number of DLEs were associated with a higher risk for the suicide-related items.

McGrath and team conclude: "To the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first to show that DLEs are associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors in adults in the general population."

They add: "DLE may provide a marker of vulnerability to suicide, and thus could be of value in future suicide prevention research."

By Mark Cowen

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