A recent study conducted by Kara Zivin, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Michigan, concluded that suicide rates among veterans are seven fold higher than the general population. The investigators collected data on 807,694 veterans that were treated and diagnosed with depression between the years of 1999 and 2004. Patients were included if they were: diagnosed with depression and given an antidepressant, diagnosed with depression after two medical visits, or diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder-schizophrenia- or schizoaffective disorder one year prior to the study.
The study concluded, after 5.5 years, that .21% committed suicide, rating higher among men than woman. Suicide rates were higher among whites (95 per 100,000 persons) than African Americans (27 per 100,000) or other races (56.1 per 100,000). There were also differences in rates of suicide among age groups, rating younger persons from 18- 44 years at 94.98 per 100,000, middle aged from 45-64 years at 77.93 per 100,000, and 65 years or older at 90 per 100,000.
Co-Author of the study Marcia Valenstein, M.D., said her group is continuing to collect and sort through data that will give them more accurate figures regarding populations at risk. “We are also examining whether there are specific periods during depression treatment when veterans are at higher risk and might need higher levels of monitoring. In addition, we are examining whether different types of depression treatments, such as different antidepressants or sleeping medications, are associated with different rates of suicide,” according to Dr. Valenstein. The following is an segment of an article from The University of Michigan that reviews the study:
The researchers analyzed comprehensive data from 807,694 veterans of all ages diagnosed with depression and treated at any Veterans Affairs facility nationwide between 1999 and 2004. The data are from the VA’s National Registry for Depression, developed and maintained by the Serious Mental Illness Treatment Research and Evaluation Center at the VA Ann Arbor’s Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence.
In all, the researchers found that 1,683 of the depressed veterans committed suicide during the study period, representing 0.21 percent of the depressed veterans studied. They then analyzed the characteristics of all the depressed veterans who committed suicide, and calculated suicide hazard ratios and suicide rates per 100,000 person-years for each subgroup.
“Doctors learn about patient characteristics that might increase risk of suicide,” says first author Kara Zivin, Ph.D., a VA investigator and assistant professor in the U-M Department of Psychiatry. “Typically, these are older age, male gender, and white race, as well as depression, and medical or substance abuse issues. But our study indicates that among veterans in depression treatment, the predictors of suicide may not be the same. We hope our findings will help guide physicians in understanding suicide risk among currently depressed veterans.”