Traumatic Stress Interacts With Bipolar Disorder Genetic Risk To Increase Odds of Suicide Attempt

Posted on May 31, 2018

Suicide in 2015 was the second leading cause of death among teens ages 15-19 with steep increases in suicide risk from ages 14 to 20. Bipolar disorder (BD) is one of the most heritable psychiatric conditions, and is associated with high suicide risk. According to lead author Holly Wilcox, PhD, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, genetic susceptibility to BD can increase the risk for suicide attempt, but only among those who also have experienced traumatic stress such as bullying, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.

The findings are based on data from 307 adolescent offspring/relatives of parents affected with BD (BD-relatives) as compared to 166 offspring/relatives of parents without specific psychiatric disorders. Blood samples were collected from all individuals, DNA was extracted from blood, and genome-wide genotyping was conducted. Genetic risk scores were derived from the sum of individual effects of many hundreds of BD-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms to elucidate the relative contributions of genes versus environment for suicidal behaviors in BD.

It was found that offspring of BD-relatives report more suicidal ideation and attempts than controls. This finding was sustained after accounting for the presence of mood disorders and substance use disorders, suggesting that parental BD is a key correlate of suicidal ideation and attempts, and that genetic risk for suicidal behavior is not wholly acting through a genetic pathway for mood disorder.

This study uniquely examines suicidal and self-harm behaviors in a young cohort of individuals who are at increased risk of BD, but many of whom have not yet developed BD themselves. This work highlights the importance of severe environmental stressors in the development of suicide attempts in those at higher genetic risk for bipolar disorder, and is important in identifying the possible risk factors involved in suicidal attempts.


Category(s):Bipolar, Mood Swings / Bipolar, Suicide Prevention

Source material from Science Daily


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