Suicide Risk Linked to Family History

History of Suicide or Mental Illness Raises Risk

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 10, 2002 -- People who have a family history of suicide or mental illness are more likely to fall prey to the same problems themselves, according to a new study. Although suicidal behavior has already been shown to run in families, researchers say that may not tell the whole story.

In their study, Danish researchers looked at over 4,200 people aged 9-45 who committed suicide and compared them with more than 80,000 who had not.

They found that people who had a mother, father, or sibling die from suicide were two and a half times more likely to commit suicide themselves compared with those without a similar family history. And people who had a family history of psychiatric illness that required hospital admission had a 50% higher risk of suicide, but only among those who didn't already have a history of mental illness themselves.

The study appears in the Oct. 12 issue of The Lancet.

Researchers say the findings show that a family history of suicide or serious mental illness independently affect the risk of suicide, and the effects are strongest when combined.

Study researcher Ping Qin, from Aarhus University in Denmark, and colleagues say the study suggests a family history of psychiatric illness only increases suicide risk by increasing the risk of developing a mental disorder.

But researchers also say that it's clear that a family history of suicide significantly increases suicide risk, whether or not the individual has a personal or family history of mental illness.

Qin says including the family history in determining suicide risk is important because it can also help identify people vulnerable to mental disorders associated with suicide.

Researchers say the number of suicides linked to family history would likely be even larger if suicides of extended relatives, familial suicide attempts, or other mental disorders that did not result in hospitalization were included in their analysis. -->