Increased Use of Antidepressants in Women Decreases Suicides in Men: An Ecological Study

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Objective: The suicide rate has decreased in many countries, while the use of antidepressants has increased. In our previous study, the decrease in suicide rate between 1994 and 2001 was greater in men than in women, but the increase in use of antidepressants was greater in women than in men. We hypothesized that the increase in the use of antidepressants in women associates with the decrease in suicide rate in men.

Method: Population-based suicide rate and reimbursed antidepressant prescriptions, an indicator of antidepressant use, between 1994 and 2001 in Finland were analyzed in the whole population. Variance in the suicide rates in men and women was explained by antidepressant prescriptions for men and women, age, time period, and geographical region in Poisson regression analyses.

Results: The decrease in suicide rate in men associated significantly with the increase in antidepressant prescriptions in women even though the model took into account the effect of increased antidepressant prescriptions in men, as well as the effects of age, time, and region (risk ratio [RR] = 0.70, P = .004, in the model without age; RR = 0.89, P = .048 in the complete model). However, the decrease in suicide rate in women did not associate with the increase in antidepressant prescriptions in men.

Conclusions: Increased prescription of antidepressants in women associates with a decreased suicide rate in men. Increased use of antidepressive medication in women may decrease depressiveness in their microsocieties and thereby reduce the risk of suicides also in men.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2012;14(3):doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01256

Submitted: July 19, 2011; accepted November 28, 2011.

Published online: May 10, 2012.

Corresponding author: Raimo K. R. Salokangas, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Turku University Central Hospital, 20520 Turku, Finland (Raimo.K.R.Salokangas@tyks.fi).

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2012;14(3):doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01256

https://doi.org/10.4088/PCC.11m01256