The suicide rate for people living with schizophrenia spectrum disorder (SSD) is 170 times higher than the general population, according to a new study by The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Canada.

Schizophrenia can be found in approximately 1.1% of the global population. In the United States, 3.5 million people have been diagnosed and it is a leading cause of disability, according to the Schizophrenia and Related Disorder Alliance of America.

The study, which was published in Schizophrenia Research, used 20 years of population data and is believed to be the largest ever study of its kind, according to the press release. The statistics of more than 75,000 patients who received a first diagnosis of SSD were analyzed. Each patient was followed for nearly 10 years.

Researchers found several key factors that were predictors of suicide. Researchers found risk was highest during the first 5 years after diagnosis. Additionally, an individual was at an increased risk if there was hospitalization or evidence of a mood disorder prior to diagnosis. Additionally, those who were diagnosed at a later age were at an increased risk for suicide, according to the press release.

"In the past clinicians have focused on treating the psychosis itself when it first appears…This study shows that treatment has to include suicide prevention safety planning as well from the very beginning," said Dr. Paul Kurdyak, senior author and director, Health Outcomes and Performance Evaluation, CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research and Clinician Scientist at ICES, in the press release.

The study authors refer to the figure as “highly tragic.” They suggest the need for increasing the age limit for admission to first episode psychosis programs, the majority of which are closed to people over 30 years of age. According to the press release, the length of clinical follow-up after the first episode of psychosis should be increased. Future research will focus on better understanding why the suicide rate for those living with SSD is so much higher than the general population, according to the study authors.

Reference:
Suicide rate for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders 170 times higher; Toronto, Canada; June 18, 2020; EurekAlert; accessed June 18, 2020