JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Measurement of total serum cholesterol in the evaluation of suicidal risk.

BACKGROUND: Many studies have demonstrated an association between suicidal behavior and low levels of total serum cholesterol. To our knowledge, this association has mainly been reported in men. This case-control study was undertaken to assess the association between serum cholesterol level and suicide attempts in both genders.

METHODS: A total of 3207 subjects was included, divided into three groups: 510 patients with a history of suicidal attempts, 275 patients with no history of suicidal attempts, and 2422 controls. Mean and quartile total cholesterol levels were compared between the three groups according to gender. ROC curves were drawn to determine the biologically relevant threshold.

RESULTS: After adjustment for age, cholesterol level was significantly lower (p<0.01) in suicide attempters than in non-attempters and controls for both genders. Male non-suicide attempters had similar cholesterol levels to controls (p=0.7), but the levels in female non-attempters were significantly higher (p=0.004). The proportion of suicide attempters in the lowest cholesterol level quartile (51.3% of men, 40.1% of women) was significantly higher than that in the highest quartile (8.1% of men, 12.4% of women). For triglyceride level, no difference was found between the three groups, suggesting that this association was not due to malnutrition linked to depression.

LIMITATIONS: The effect of acute or chronic administration of medications on serum cholesterol levels was not controlled. Psychiatric history in surgical controls was not recorded.

CONCLUSIONS: Total serum cholesterol levels measured at admission may be a useful biological marker of suicidal risk.

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