Spouses Bereaved by Suicide Have Elevated Health Risks

Elevated risks of developing mental disorders and physical disorders relative to general population

depressed woman

THURSDAY, March 23, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Spouses bereaved by suicide have elevated risks of mental, physical, and social health outcomes, according to a study published online March 22 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Annette Erlangsen, Ph.D., from the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention in Copenhagen, and colleagues conducted a nationwide cohort study in Denmark involving 6.7 million individuals aged 18 years and older. The authors compared mental disorders, physical disorders, social health outcomes, and health care use for people bereaved by spousal suicide with the general population and with people bereaved by other manners of death.

The researchers found that spouses bereaved by a partner's suicide had elevated risks of developing mental disorders within five years of the loss compared with the general population (incidence rate ratio, 1.8 and 1.7 for men and women, respectively). There were also increased risks for developing physical disorders, including cirrhosis and sleep disorders. Relative to the general population, there was also more use of municipal support, sick leave benefits, and disability pension funds. Spouses bereaved by suicide relative to those bereaved by other manners of death had higher risks for developing mental disorders (incidence rate ratio, 1.7 and 2.0 for men and women, respectively), suicide behaviors, mortality, and municipal support; they also had a higher level of mental health care.

"The excess risks of mental, physical, and social health outcomes highlight a need for more support directed toward spouses bereaved by suicide," the authors write.

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