Attempted suicide rates before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: Interrupted time series analysis of a nationally representative sample

Yael Travis-Lumer, Arad Kodesh, Yair Goldberg, Sophia Frangou, Stephen Z. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background To characterize the association between the protracted biopsychosocial coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic exposures and incident suicide attempt rates. Methods Data were from a nationally representative cohort based on electronic health records from January 2013 to February 2021 (N = 852 233), with an interrupted time series study design. For the primary analysis, the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on incident suicide attempts warranting in-patient hospital treatment was quantified by fitting a Poisson regression and modeling the relative risk (RR) and the corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Scenarios were forecast to predict attempted suicide rates at 10 months after social mitigation strategies. Fourteen sensitivity analyses were performed to test the robustness of the results. Results Despite the increasing trend in the unexposed interval, the interval exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic was statistically significant (p < 0.001) associated with a reduced RR of incident attempted suicide (RR = 0.63, 95% CI 0.52-0.78). Consistent with the primary analysis, sensitivity analysis of sociodemographic groups and methodological factors were statistically significant (p < 0.05). No effect modification was identified for COVID-19 lockdown intervals or COVID-19 illness status. All three forecast scenarios at 10 months projected a suicide attempt rate increase from 12.49 (7.42-21.01) to 21.38 (12.71-35.99). Conclusions The interval exposed to the protracted mass social trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a lower suicide attempt rate compared to the unexposed interval. However, this trend is likely to reverse 10 months after lifting social mitigation policies, underscoring the need for enhanced implementation of public health policy for suicide prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2485-2491
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Medicine
Volume53
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 19 Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.

Keywords

  • Coronavirus
  • epidemiology
  • public health policy
  • risk
  • suicide attempt
  • trauma

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