Mental Health

Suicide after Bereavement–An Overlooked Problem

Suicide after Bereavement–An Overlooked Problem

People are at a greatly increased risk of suicide in the first year after the death of their spouse, particularly in the first week after bereavement.
The authors examined the relationship between the period of bereavement and death by suicide. This was done through the linkage of individual records for married people for the period of 1985-2005 in Switzerland. Of 453,200 widowed people identified during the study period, 366 death/suicide pairs were identified. About one in every 600 widowers and one in every 2300 widows committed suicide in the first year after bereavement, with rates being most elevated in the first week. Standardised mortality ratios were considerably higher for those under the age of 59, being about 90 times the average rate for men and 120 times for women, in the first week after the event.

Suicide after Bereavement–An Overlooked Problem: Commentary from F1000

Henry Brodaty; Adrienne WithallF1000 Medicine.  2008; ©2008 Medicine Reports Ltd.
Posted 08/29/2008

Ajdacic-Gross V, Ring M, Gadola E, Lauber C, Bopp M, Gutzwiller F, Rössler W
Psychol Med 2008 May 38(5):673-6

Commentary from Faculty Member Henry Brodaty with Adrienne Withall

This article confirms that people are at a greatly increased risk of suicide in the first year after the death of their spouse, particularly in the first week after bereavement. The authors examined the relationship between the period of bereavement and death by suicide. This was done through the linkage of individual records for married people for the period of 1985-2005 in Switzerland. Of 453,200 widowed people identified during the study period, 366 death/suicide pairs were identified. About one in every 600 widowers and one in every 2300 widows committed suicide in the first year after bereavement, with rates being most elevated in the first week. Standardised mortality ratios were considerably higher for those under the age of 59, being about 90 times the average rate for men and 120 times for women, in the first week after the event. The authors acknowledge that suicide counts often provide an underestimate, so it is likely that the rates are even higher than those reported here. This article highlights the importance of monitoring the mental health of widows and widowers, especially during the first week after the death of their spouse, with continued support over the course of the first 12 months. The article also suggests that the people most likely to be in immediate contact with the bereaved (namely funeral directors, general practitioners and ministers/priests) could assist with preventive interventions.

Faculty of 1000 Medicine Evaluations, Dissents and Author responses for: [Ajdacic-Gross V et al. Suicide after bereavement: an overlooked problem. Psychol Med 2008 May 38 (5):673-6]. 2008 Aug 4. www.f1000medicine.com/article/id/1118788/evaluation

The following article was selected and commented on by these Faculty Members of Faculty of 1000 Medicine:
Henry Brodaty with Adrienne Withall, University of New South Wales, Australia

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