Antidepressant use might help explain suicide dip, analysis suggests

Posted: Friday, May 10, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- Greater use of antidepressants might be driving down the nation's suicide rate, an analysis suggests.

From 1995 to 1998, prescriptions for relatively recent antidepressants like Prozac rose 41 percent, while the age-adjusted national suicide rate dipped about 6 percent, said Dr. John Mann, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University.

''There may be a relationship,'' Mann said in an interview. ''We don't know for sure ... (but) that's our hypothesis.''

It makes sense, since depression or related illness is often seen in people who commit suicide, said Mann, who discussed his analysis at a presentation sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

John Kalafat, president of the American Association of Suicidology and an associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University, cautioned that the results don't prove Mann's hypothesis.

''It's a correlation, and of course correlations don't prove causation,'' said Kalafat. ''He's entitled to speculate (but) there's no way to go beyond speculation.''

Mann said the results were part of a more extensive set of analyses he has submitted for publication in a journal. The work was federally funded, he said.

He noted that changes in unemployment did not appear to explain the change in suicide rates.

Suicide took 30,575 American lives in 1998, for an age-adjusted rate of 10.43 per 100,000 population, down from 11.11 in 1995, according to federal data.

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