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Conner KR, Bohnert AS, McCarthy JF, Valenstein M, Bossarte R, Ignacio R, Lu N, Ilgen MA. Mental disorder comorbidity and suicide among 2.96 million men receiving care in the Veterans Health Administration health system. Journal of abnormal psychology. 2013 Feb 1; 122(1):256-63.
Comorbid mental disorders are common among suicide decedents. It is unclear if mental disorders in combination confer additive risk for suicide, in other words, if risk associated with two disorders is approximately the sum of the risk conferred by each disorder considered separately, or if there are departures from additivity such that the combined risk is less (i.e., subadditive) or more than additive (i.e., synergistic). Using a retrospective cohort design, all male Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) service users who utilized VHA services in fiscal year (FY) 1999 and were alive at the start or FY 2000 (N = 2,962,810) were analyzed. Individuals were followed until death or the end of FY 2006. Using the VHA National Patient Care Database, diagnoses of mental disorders in FY 1999 were grouped into six categories (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder). In proportional hazards models, 2-way interactions between disorders were used to examine departures from additive risk. There were 7,426 suicide deaths in the study period. Two-way interaction tests were nearly all statistically significant, indicating departures from additivity, and the results of these tests were consistent with subadditive risk. Sensitivity analyses examining the first year of follow-up showed similar results. Subadditive risk may be explained by factors that serve to lower the increased risk associated with a comorbid diagnosis, which may include common underlying causes of mental disorders, difficulties of differential diagnosis, the nature of etiological relationships between mental disorders, and intensive clinical care and monitoring of patients with comorbidity.