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Psychiatric illness, socioeconomic status, and marital status in people committing suicide: a matched case-sibling-control study
  1. Esben Agerbo,
  2. Ping Qin,
  3. Preben Bo Mortensen
  1. National Centre for Register-based Research, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor E Agerbo
 National Centre for Register-based Research, University of Aarhus, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark; ea{at}


Study objective: Suicides cluster in both families and persons with psychiatric disorders and socioeconomic disadvantages. This study compares these factors between suicide cases, their siblings, and population based controls in an attempt to evaluate both the familial and the individual element of these factors.

Design: Nested case-control study. Information on causes of death, psychiatric admission, marital status, children, and socioeconomic factors was obtained from routine registers.

Setting: Denmark.

Participants: 985 suicide cases, 1104 sex-age (±3 years) matched siblings, and 16 619 controls.

Main results: The suicide rate ratios obtained from the case-sibling and the case-control analysis, respectively, were of similar magnitude. For example, in the case-sibling analysis the adjusted suicide rate ratios associated with discharge from a psychiatric hospital within the previous 365 days, being unemployed the previous year, having a postgraduate degree and being single were 42.13 (95% CI 17.75 to 100.02), 1.78 (1.35 to 2.36), 0.51 (0.21 to 1.26), and 2.69 (1.91 to 3.79), respectively. The corresponding rate ratios obtained from the case-control analysis were 47.91 (35.41 to 64.83), 1.76 (1.49 to 2.08), 0.45 (0.26 to 0.76), and 2.39 (1.87 to 3.07). Moreover, the analogous ratios when comparing siblings and controls were 1.98 (1.08 to 3.63), 1.22 (1.06 to 1.41), 0.65 (0.44 to 0.95), and 0.89 (0.75 to 1.06).

Conclusions: People who commit suicide deviate similarly from siblings and controls in exposure to hospitalised psychiatric disorders and socioeconomic disadvantages, although these factors contribute to the familial aggregation of suicides.

  • siblings
  • suicide

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  • Funding: the study was financially supported by the Stanley Medical Research Institute. The National Centre for Register-based Research is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation. Psychiatric epidemiological research at the National Centre for Register-based Research is in part funded through a collaborative agreement with Centre for Basic Psychiatric Research, Psychiatric Hospital in Aarhus.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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