1. Rosenberg, Karen


According to this study:


* Surviving partners of those who died by suicide subsequently have a higher risk of a mental health disorder compared with both the general population and spouses who are bereaved because of other causes.


* Spousal suicide can impact the surviving partner's physical health and mortality risk.



Article Content

More than 800,000 people worldwide die by suicide annually. It's been suggested that the suicide of a spouse or partner can have health ramifications for the surviving partner, but these health effects haven't been systematically assessed in a large-scale study.


For this reason, researchers in Demark used Danish data sets documenting the use of health services, outcomes, and mortality for all citizens to identify everyone who died by suicide since 1970 and to track the health outcomes of surviving spouses from 1980 through 2014. The mental, physical, and social health outcomes of those bereaved by suicide were compared with the health outcomes of the general population and those bereaved for reasons other than suicide. The total study cohort consisted of 3,491,939 men, of whom 4,814 were bereaved by spousal suicide and 251,863 were bereaved by spousal death from other causes, and 3,514,959 women, of whom 10,793 were bereaved by spousal suicide and 536,915 were bereaved by spousal death from other causes.


Men and women bereaved by spousal suicide had a significantly increased risk of mental disorders, including mood disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use disorders, and self-harm, compared with the general population or the other bereaved group of spouses. They also had a higher risk of dying due to any cause, including suicide, compared with those in the general population and those bereaved for other causes. Compared with the general population, men and women bereaved by spousal suicide had higher rates of several physical illnesses, including cancer, cirrhosis, sleep disorders, and spinal disc herniation.


The researchers believe this is the first study to show a link between spousal suicide and physical illness in the surviving spouse. Because their research also shows that people suffering bereavement because of suicide have an elevated risk of mental health disorders and suicide, they conclude that proactive efforts to provide support and mental health care are needed.-JZ




Erlangsen A, et al JAMA Psychiatry 2017;74(5):456-64; Caine ED JAMA Psychiatry 2017 74 5 443-4