Suicide risk factors in bipolar disorder identified

Adults with bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of committing suicide in their early 30’s, usually within 7-12 years of the onset of the mental illness, according to a Reuters report.

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterised by severe mood swings, where the person experiences both manic and depressive episodes.

Bipolar sufferers up to 60% more likely to commit suicide
The report says that Taiwanese researcher Dr Shang-Ying Tsai of Taipei Medical University in Taiwan and colleagues found that bipolar people have a 25% to 60% likelihood of attempting suicide at some point in their lives. The researchers studied the risk factors associated with suicide attempts and the point at which patients are most vulnerable.

The researchers followed 2 133 patients in Taiwan who were diagnosed with a mood disorder, and identified 41 with bipolar disease who committed suicide over the next 16 years. These patients were matched with 41 bipolar patients who did not commit suicide but were relatively similar in age, gender and date of admission to a hospital for the disease. The researchers then analysed the differences between the two groups, the report says.

The findings were published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Vulnerable times
According to the report, the researchers found that those who committed suicide were more likely to have had a first-degree family member who had also committed suicide. They were also more likely to made more than one previous suicide attempt in the past seven years.

The researchers also found that the most vulnerable times for committing suicide were two years following a hospital admission, 7 to 12 years after the onset of the disease, and before age 35.

Previous studies
Previous Western studies were clouded by the fact that people with bipolar illnesses in these societies often abuse drugs and alcohol, which may be a contributing factor in suicide, the report says.

The researchers hope that healthcare providers use this knowledge to help prevent their patients from trying to kill themselves. “Another way to prevent suicide in bipolar disorder is to vigorously treat the illness,” the researchers say in the report.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD