Antidepressant Use May Curb Teen Suicide
Increasing Use of Antidepressants May Be Factor in Falling Suicide Rates
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 13, 2003 -- Increasing use of antidepressant medications
may be contributing to declining teen suicide rates.
Researchers say use of antidepressant medications among teens
and adolescents has grown in the last decade while suicide rates have declined.
But it's difficult to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the
The study showed that a 1% increase in adolescent use of
antidepressants was associated with a decrease of 0.23 suicides per 100,000
adolescents per year.
The results appear in the October issue of the Archives of
Antidepressant Use Lowered Suicide Rates
In the study, researchers looked at the number of
antidepressant prescriptions filled by 10- to 19-year-old youths in 588 ZIP
codes between 1990 and 2000 and then compared that with the number of suicides
in those ZIP codes.
Researchers found that regions with higher rates of
antidepressant use among teens also had higher teen suicide rates. But they
also found that areas with increasing antidepressant use experienced a slight
drop in suicide rates over the 10-year period.
The study showed that this trend between antidepressant
treatment and decreasing teen suicide rates was significant for older
adolescents (ages 15-19) and males but not for younger adolescents and
Researchers say that compared with younger adolescents who
commit suicide, older adolescents who commit suicide are more likely to have a
diagnosable mental disorder, such as depression or anxiety disorders, and might
be more likely to benefit from antidepressants.
"The relationship between suicide and mental status is not
simple, and merely expanding access to antidepressant medications is unlikely
to ensure the abolition or even a continued rapid decline in adolescent suicide
rates," writes researcher Mark Olfson, MD, of the New York State
Psychiatric Institute, and colleagues.
But researchers say these findings confirm that teen suicide
prevention policies that seek to identify and treat young people with
depression and other mental disorders are an effective way to reduce teen
Despite recent declines, researchers say that suicide is still
the third leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years old and
the fourth leading cause for adolescents aged 10 to 14 years old.