OBJECTIVE: To determine how psychological premorbidity affects the risk of depression in parents who lost a child through suicide.
DESIGN: Population-based survey.
SETTING: Sweden, between 2009 and 2010.
PARTICIPANTS: All parents who lost a child, age 15-30, through suicide between 2004 and 2007 according to National population registries. Non-bereaved parents matched for age, sex, living area, marital status, number of children.
EXCLUSION CRITERIA: born outside a Nordic country, not Swedish speaking, contact details missing. Participants: 666 of 915 (73%) suicide-bereaved and 377 of 508 (74%) non-bereaved parents.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Depression measured by the nine-item depression scale of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and study-specific questions to assess psychological premorbidity and experience of the child's presuicidal morbidity.
RESULTS: In all, 94 (14%) suicide-bereaved and 51 (14%) non-bereaved parents (relative risk 1.0; 95% CI 0.8 to 1.4) had received their first treatment for psychological problems or had been given a psychiatric diagnosis more than 10 years earlier. The prevalence of moderate-to-severe depression was 115 (18%) in suicide-bereaved versus 28 (7%) in non-bereaved parents (RR 2.3; 95% CI 1.6 to 3.5). For those without psychological premorbidity, the relative risk was 2.3 (95% CI 1.4 to 3.6). 339 (51%) suicide-bereaved parents expressed worry over the child's psychological health during the month preceding the suicide and 259 (39%) had anticipated the suicide.
CONCLUSIONS: In parents who lost a child through suicide in Sweden we did not find a higher prevalence of long-term psychological premorbidity than among parents who had not lost a child; the more than twofold risk of depression among the bereaved can probably be explained by the suicide and the stressful time preceding the suicide.
2013. Vol. 3, no 8, e003108
Funding The study was supported by The Swedish Council for Working Life Social Research (FAS), ALF Grants, County Council of Stockholm and Swedish Lundbeck foundation