Clinical differences among depressed patients with and without a history of suicide attempts: findings from the STAR*D trial

Cynthia A Claassen, Madhukar H Trivedi, A John Rush, Mustafa M Husain, Sidney Zisook, Elizabeth Young, Andrew Leuchter, Stephen R Wisniewski, G K Balasubramani, Jonathan Alpert
Journal of Affective Disorders 2007, 97 (1): 77-84

BACKGROUND: This study sought to determine whether a history of suicide attempts among outpatients diagnosed with nonpsychotic major depressive disorder (MDD) is correlated with any difference in clinical presentation that should influence patient care.

METHODS: Baseline data from the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR()D) trial on outpatients with MDD treated in primary and specialty care settings were used to model significant demographic and clinical correlates of suicide attempter status.

RESULTS: Altogether, 16.5% of participants (n=667) reported prior suicide attempts. Controlling for age, gender, and depressive symptom severity, previous attempters had more current general medical conditions (micro=3.2 vs. 2.9, p<.0001), more current alcohol/substance abuse (p<.0001), and more work hours missed in the past week (26.2% vs. 18.2%, p<.0001) than non-attempters. On average, for the previously suicidal, the onset of MDD occurred 8.9 years earlier in life (p<.0001) and had included 1.2 additional depressive episodes (p=0.001) compared to those without prior suicidal behavior. Previous attempters also reported more current suicidal ideation (61.3% of previous attempters, adjusted OR 1.6, vs. 45.5% of nonattempters, p<.0001).

LIMITATIONS: Presence or absence of a history of suicide attempts was determined only through self report.

CONCLUSIONS: Those with a history of suicidal behavior suffer a greater burden of depressive illness. Earlier intervention and ongoing, aggressive care, including maintenance-phase pharmacotherapy, may be critical to mitigating the long-term consequences associated with this increased disease burden.

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