Decreased binding capacity of SERT in the prefrontal cortex has been observed in both suicide victims and suicide attempters. Moreover, some studies have shown that SERT has a seasonal variation with lower binding capacity in the spring and summer, which coincides with a seasonal peak of suicides. Our aim was to explore whether the season of treatment initiation with antidepressants is associated with suicide or suicide attempt and compare it with the underlying suicide seasonality in the general population.
Using Swedish registers, patients who initiated treatment with an antidepressant were followed up to three months for suicidal behavior. Cox regression analyses were used. Results were compared with the underlying seasonal pattern by calculating standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) for suicides and standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) for suicide attempts.
Patients aged =65 years had higher risk for suicide when initiating antidepressant treatment in the summer, and also a higher risk for suicide attempt when initiating treatment in the spring and summer. Young patients (0-24 years) presented a higher risk for suicide attempt when initiating treatment in the autumn. Patients with previous suicide attempt had a seasonal pattern, with a higher risk to carry out a suicide attempt in the summer and autumn. Results from the SMR and SIR calculations numerically support these findings.
We used information of filling an antidepressant prescription as a proxy of actual antidepressant treatment. Patients with combination, augmentation therapy or those switching antidepressant during follow-up were excluded. Thus, our results refer to less complicated psychopathology.
Our results indicate an interaction between biological and health care-related factors for the observed seasonal pattern of suicidal behavior in the elderly, whereas psychological and societal factors may be more important for the seasonality observed in the younger patients.