The role of depression and use of alcohol and other drugs after partner suicide in the association between suicide bereavement and suicide: cohort study in the Danish population

Alexandra Pitman, Keltie McDonald, Yanakan Logeswaran, Glyn Lewis, Julie Cerel, Gemma Lewis, Annette Erlangsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background. Although suicide bereavement is associated with suicide and self-harm, evidence regarding mechanisms is lacking. We investigated whether depression and substance use (alcohol and/or other drugs) explain the association between partner suicide bereavement and suicide. Methods. Linkage of nationwide, longitudinal data from Denmark for the period 1980–2016 facilitated a comparison of 22 668 individuals exposed to bereavement by a partner’s suicide with 913 402 individuals bereaved by a partner’s death due to other causes. Using causal mediation models, we estimated the degree to which depression and substance use (considered separately) mediated the association between suicide bereavement and suicide. Results. Suicide-bereaved partners were found to have a higher risk of suicide (HRadj = 1.59, 95% CI 1.36–1.86) and of depression (ORadj 1.16, 95% CI 1.09–1.25) when compared to other-bereaved partners, but a lower risk of substance use (ORadj 0.83; 95% CI 0.78–0.88). An increased risk of suicide was found among any bereaved individuals with a depression diagnosis recorded post-bereavement (ORadj 3.92, 95% CI 3.55–4.34). Mediation analysis revealed that depression mediated 2% (1.68%; 95% CI 0.23%–3.14%; p = 0.024) of the association between suicide bereavement and suicide in partners when using bereaved controls. Conclusions. Depression is a partial mediator of the association between suicide bereavement and suicide. Efforts to prevent and optimize the treatment of depression in suicide-bereaved people could reduce their suicide risk. Our findings might be conservative because we did not include cases of depression diagnosed in primary care. Further work is needed to understand this and other mediators.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2024.

Keywords

  • depression
  • mediation analysis
  • substance-related disorders
  • suicide bereavement
  • suicide risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The role of depression and use of alcohol and other drugs after partner suicide in the association between suicide bereavement and suicide: cohort study in the Danish population'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this