Psychological morbidity among suicide-bereaved and non-bereaved parents: a nationwide population survey.

08 Jun 2018

OBJECTIVE: To determine how psychological premorbidity affects the risk of depression in parents who lost a child through suicide. DESIGN: Population-based survey. SETTING: Sweden, between 2009 and 2010. PARTICIPANTS: All parents who lost a child, age 15-30, through suicide between 2004 and 2007 according to National population registries. Non-bereaved parents matched for age, sex, living area, marital status, number of children. EXCLUSION CRITERIA: born outside a Nordic country, not Swedish speaking, contact details missing. Participants: 666 of 915 (73%) suicide-bereaved and 377 of 508 (74%) non-bereaved parents. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Depression measured by the nine-item depression scale of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and study-specific questions to assess psychological premorbidity and experience of the child's presuicidal morbidity. RESULTS: In all, 94 (14%) suicide-bereaved and 51 (14%) non-bereaved parents (relative risk 1.0; 95% CI 0.8 to 1.4) had received their first treatment for psychological problems or had been given a psychiatric diagnosis more than 10 years earlier. The prevalence of moderate-to-severe depression was 115 (18%) in suicide-bereaved versus 28 (7%) in non-bereaved parents (RR 2.3; 95% CI 1.6 to 3.5). For those without psychological premorbidity, the relative risk was 2.3 (95% CI 1.4 to 3.6). 339 (51%) suicide-bereaved parents expressed worry over the child's psychological health during the month preceding the suicide and 259 (39%) had anticipated the suicide. CONCLUSIONS: In parents who lost a child through suicide in Sweden we did not find a higher prevalence of long-term psychological premorbidity than among parents who had not lost a child; the more than twofold risk of depression among the bereaved can probably be explained by the suicide and the stressful time preceding the suicide.