Veterans at Risk

Study finds veterans with bipolar disorder at increased risk of suicide

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A new study suggests veterans with any psychiatric illness face an increased risk of suicide and those with bipolar disorder are at an even greater risk.

Researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and the University of Michigan partnered to look at the links between various psychiatric diagnoses and suicide risk among more than 3 million veterans. The researchers obtained the psychiatric diagnoses from 1998 and 1999 treatment records.

A total of 7,684 deaths from suicide were recorded in the following seven years. Just less than half of the suicides occurred in patients with at least one psychiatric diagnosis, including post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, substance use disorders and other anxiety disorders.

Bipolar disorder represented the strongest association with suicide in men (9 percent of the cases studied), followed by depression, substance use disorders, schizophrenia, other anxiety disorders and PTSD. In women, substance use disorders ranked first among veterans who committed suicide, followed by bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, PTSD and other anxiety disorder, according to the authors.

Bipolar disorder ranked as the least common diagnosis but held the strongest tie to suicide risk overall, making the disease -- which is characterized by extreme mood swings that range from manic highs to debilitating lows -- especially appropriate for "targeted intervention efforts or attempts to improve medication adherence," according to the study report.

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Review Date: 
January 13, 2011
Last Updated:
January 13, 2011