A study conducted on health data for the entire population of Denmark has identified risk factors for suicide that can vary depending on the profile of those at risk. Suffering from a physical illness, for example, is a more common factor in male suicides than it is in female suicides.
The study which has been published by the review JAMA Psychiatry analyzed data for 14,103 suicides in Danish national healthcare and social registries from January 1, 1995, to December 31, 2015, along with data from a population sample of 265,183 people who were born or resided in Denmark on January 1, 1995. The data was analysed from November 5, 2018 to May 13, 2019. A machine learning algorithm was used to determine 1339 variables to be taken into account as risk exposure factors.
“Suicide is incredibly challenging to predict, because every suicide death is the result of multiple interacting risk factors in one’s life,” explains lead study author Dr. Jaimie Gradus, associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).
The results showed, for example, that illness and physical injuries increased the risk of suicide in men, but not in women. The researchers also found that the risk was higher for people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders who had been prescribed psychotropic medications four years before committing suicide than it was when prescriptions were written six months before.
Dr. Gradus and her team emphasise that the research cannot be used to create a model to perfectly measure the risk of suicide, given that medical records rarely include experiences that may precipitate suicide, such as a relationship breakup or the loss of a job. Moreover, the factors that explain suicidal tendencies in other countries may be different from those observed in Denmark.
Having said that, the researchers want to draw attention to new risk factors described in the study, which should be taken into consideration to prevent suicide, which remains a major public health issue. They point out that “this study [is] the first to date to develop risk profiles for suicide based on data from a full population, apparent consistency with what is known about suicide risk was noted, as well as potentially important, understudied risk factors with evidence of unique suicide risk profiles among specific subpopulations.”