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Sleep Disturbance Without Depression Linked to Suicide in Elders — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
August 14, 2014

Sleep Disturbance Without Depression Linked to Suicide in Elders

By Christine Sadlowski

Edited by Susan Sadoughi, MD

Subjective sleep disturbance was associated with suicide risk — independent of depression symptoms — in a community-based study of older adults reported in JAMA Psychiatry.

Among almost 14,500 adults aged 66 to 90, the 20 who died by suicide during 10 years' follow-up were significantly more likely than controls to have reported sleep disturbance — particularly difficulty falling asleep and nonrestorative sleep — on a baseline questionnaire. Depressed mood at baseline did not account for the association, although a post-hoc analysis suggested that highly disturbed sleep plus severely depressed mood was associated with the greatest suicide risk.

NEJM Journal Watch Psychiatry associate editor Steven Dubovsky comments: "Studies that demonstrate a statistical correlation between a particular symptom and an outcome do not necessarily inform clinical judgment in an individual patient. However, people of any age who report feeling severely dissatisfied with any aspect of their lives, including their sleep, should be asked about suicidal thoughts, especially if they have any psychiatric disorder."

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