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Suicide Attempts in Bipolar Patients

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62(12):963-966

Background: Between 25% to 50% of patients with bipolar disorder make suicide attempts during their lives, but there are some controversies about factors related to suicide attempts in this group of patients. The aim of this study is to investigate the association between suicide attempts and the predictive factors previously described in the literature.

Method: The sample included all 169 patients with DSM-III-R bipolar I disorder identified in a delimited area (northern Spain). Sociodemographic, clinical, and family history variables measured by Research Diagnostic Criteria-Family History were analyzed. Significant variables were introduced in a logistic regression analysis to control for the effects of other variables.

Results: There were 56 patients (33%) who had one or more suicide attempts. Early age at onset, history of hospital admission during depressive episodes, drug abuse, and family history were significantly associated with suicide in the univariate analyses (p < .05). A much higher proportion of patients with onset at or before 25 years of age than patients with onset after 25 years of age attempted suicide (23% vs. 10%). The age at onset was no longer significant after controlling for the other 3 variables included in the logistic regression analysis.

Conclusion: Suicide attempts are highly prevalent in bipolar patients and are related to drug abuse, family history of affective disorders, and severe depressive episodes. This study suggests that the risk of suicide in patients with an early age at onset could reflect other variables such as drug abuse, a history of hospital admissions for depression, or family history.