A worldwide assessment of the frequency of suicide, suicide attempts, or psychiatric hospitalization after predictive testing for Huntington disease

Am J Hum Genet. 1999 May;64(5):1293-304. doi: 10.1086/302374.


Prior to the implementation of predictive-testing programs for Huntington disease (HD), significant concern was raised concerning the likelihood of catastrophic events (CEs), particularly in those persons receiving an increased-risk result. We have investigated the frequency of CEs-that is, suicide, suicide attempt, and psychiatric hospitalization-after an HD predictive-testing result, through questionnaires sent to predictive-testing centers worldwide. A total of 44 persons (0.97%) in a cohort of 4,527 test participants had a CE: 5 successful suicides, 21 suicide attempts, and 18 hospitalizations for psychiatric reasons. All persons committing suicide had signs of HD, whereas 11 (52.4%) of 21 persons attempting suicide and 8 (44.4%) of 18 who had a psychiatric hospitalization were symptomatic. A total of 11 (84.6%) of 13 asymptomatic persons who experienced a CE during the first year after HD predictive testing received an increased-risk result. Factors associated with an increased risk of a CE included (a) a psychiatric history </=5 years prior to testing and (b) unemployed status. The frequency of CEs did not differ between those persons receiving results of predictive testing through linkage analysis in whom there was only changes in direction of risk and those persons receiving definitive results after analysis for the mutation underlying HD. These findings provide insights into the frequency, associated factors, and timing of CEs in a worldwide cohort of persons receiving predictive-testing results and, as such, highlight persons for whom ongoing support may be beneficial.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Genetic Testing / psychology*
  • Global Health*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / diagnosis
  • Huntington Disease / genetics
  • Huntington Disease / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data