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Original Research

Association of Recent and Past Suicide Attempts With Health-Related Quality of Life

Tanner J. Bommersbach, MD, MPHa; Robert A. Rosenheck, MDa,b; and Taeho Greg Rhee, PhDa,b,c,*

Published: February 27, 2023


Background: Suicide prevention is a major public health priority. The effectiveness of suicide prevention initiatives is typically assessed by reductions in incidents of suicidal behavior. However, the association of suicide attempts with changes in measures of overall health-related quality of life (HRQOL) has been understudied.

Methods: Nationally representative data from 36,309 adults from the 2012–2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions Wave III (NESARC-III) were used to compare 3 groups: individuals with any suicide attempt in the past 3 years, individuals with a suicide attempt prior to the past 3 years, and those with no prior attempts. Using the 12-item Short Form (SF-12) items, standard measures of mental component score (MCS) and physical component score (PCS) of HRQOL and of quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) were constructed and compared across these groups. Multivariable regression analyses adjusted scores for sociodemographic, diagnostic, and behavioral covariates.

Results: Overall, 1.0% (n = 355) reported an attempt in the last 3 years, 4.3% (n = 1,569) reported an attempt prior to the past 3 years, and 94.7% (n = 34,385) had no prior attempt. In unadjusted analysis, individuals with recent attempts reported much lower MCS scores compared to individuals with no prior attempts (−13.5 points; 95% confidence interval [CI], −15.4 to –11.6) as well as those with past attempts (−7.7 points; 95% CI, −8.5 to –7.0). QALYs were also much lower (−0.13; 95% CI, −0.14 to –0.11 for those with recent attempts and –0.09; 95% CI, −0.10 to –0.08 for those with past attempts, respectively). Adjustment for correlated factors, especially psychiatric disorders and substance use disorders, accounted for 75%–86% of the association of recent and past suicide attempts with MCS-HRQOL and 89%–91% of QALYs; ie, these factors were largely incorporated in these measures of HRQOL.

Conclusions: Individuals with relatively recent suicide attempts report significantly lower MCS-HRQOL and QALYs compared to both individuals with no prior attempts and individuals with more remote attempts. Psychiatric and substance use comorbidities account for most but not all of the group differences in these measures and thus provide a brief approach to assessing suicide prevention initiatives encompassing multiple aspects of well-being and providing a basis for future cost-benefit analysis.

Volume: 84

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