Background: Suicide rate among schizophrenia patients may vary for several reasons, one of the most important being the time point of the suicide during the illness process. However, prospective studies on suicide risk in population-based cohort of individuals with new-onset schizophrenia have been lacking.
Method: The data were collected for 10,934 individuals alive in Finland at the age of 16 from the genetically homogenous, population-based Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort ascertained already during mid-pregnancy. The Finnish Hospital Discharge Register was used until the end of 1997 (age 31) to identify cases with mental disorder. Case records were scrutinized and diagnoses were re-checked for DSM-III-R criteria. One hundred subjects met the DSM-III-R criteria for schizophrenia. Deaths by the end of year 2005 (age 39) were ascertained from death certificates.
Results: Suicides (n = 7) accounted for 50% of all the deaths at age from 16 to 39. Seven (7.0%) subjects with schizophrenia had committed suicide; suicide rate being 2.9% (1/35) for women and 9.2% (6/65) for men. Furthermore, 71% of suicides in schizophrenia occurred during the first 3 years after onset of illness.
Conclusion: The suicide rate for patients with new-onset schizophrenia followed until the age of 39 was high and accounted for half of the deaths. Great majority of the suicides took place during the first years of the illness.