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Decline in Suicides Not Related to Antidepressants

As part of an ongoing research effort, scientists have concluded that decline in suicide rates over recent decades, and increase in sales of new antidepressants over the same time frame, are not related.

In a study based on figures from the Nordic countries, researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health found no evidence that increased sales of the new medicines could be linked to a lower suicide rate.

The researchers also did not find any relationship between reduced sales of the older and more toxic antidepressants and a reduction in suicide rates.

The suicide rate has been declining since the end of the 1980s in many Western countries, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

Around 1990, the new SSRI drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) became available on the market.

Sales figures for these new antidepressant drugs have increased annually, whereas sales of the older TCA drugs (tricyclic anti-depressants) have declined substantially. TCA drugs are associated with a risk of poisoning with overdose.

In a study recently published in BMC Psychiatry, the researchers gathered data from the Nordic countries about the suicide rate (number of suicides per 100,000 inhabitants) and sales figures for antidepressants, both for SSRIs and TCAs. A total of over 60,000 suicides were included in the study.

Scientists have performed a statistical analysis of the relationship between changes in suicide rates and changes in sales figures for both new and older antidepressants in the period 1990-98 in the respective countries.

It is during this time period that the increase in sales was greatest and where the greatest drop in suicide rate could be expected.

In order to assess the impact of antidepressants on suicide, the researchers asked, “Can a significant increase in sales of SSRIs in any one year be related to a sharp decline in the suicide rate in the same year?” and “Can the decline in sales of TCAs be related to the decrease in the suicide rate?”

When the Nordic countries are studied as one group, the study concludes with a negative answer to both questions.

In a previous study by the researchers, a correlation between the increase in sales figures for SSRIs and the decrease in suicide rate in Norway at the beginning of the 1990s was observed and it was suggested that this could be explained by the fact that fewer people used TCAs to commit suicide.

In the new Nordic study this correlation can be disregarded when the other countries are included in the analysis.

The new study also found that the reduction in TCA sales cannot explain the reduction in suicide rates. The researchers behind the study conclude that the suicide rate is not affected by sales of antidepressants, but by other factors that are little understood and are difficult to measure.

Source: Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Decline in Suicides Not Related to Antidepressants

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Decline in Suicides Not Related to Antidepressants. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/09/30/decline-in-suicides-not-related-to-antidepressants/18977.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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