Context: Although numerous studies have documented the clear link between psychiatric conditions and suicide, few have allowed for the comparison between the strength of association between different psychiatric diagnoses and suicide.
Objective: To examine the strength of association between different types of psychiatric diagnoses and the risk of suicide in patients receiving health care services from the Department of Veterans Affairs in fiscal year (FY) 1999.
Design: This project examined National Death Index data and Veterans Health Administration patient treatment records.
Setting: Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration.
Participants: All veterans who used Veterans Health Administration services during FY 1999 (N = 3 291 891) who were alive at the start of FY 2000.
Main outcome measures: Psychiatric diagnoses were obtained from patient treatment records in FY 1998 and 1999 and used to predict subsequent death by suicide during the following 7 years in sex-stratified survival analyses controlling for age.
Results: In the 7 years after FY 1999, 7684 veterans died by suicide. In diagnosis-specific analyses, patients with bipolar disorder had the greatest estimated risk of suicide among men (hazard ratio, 2.98; 95% confidence interval, 2.73-3.25), and patients with substance use disorders had the greatest risk among women (6.62; 4.72-9.29).
Conclusions: Although all the examined psychiatric diagnoses were associated with elevated risk of suicide in veterans, results indicate that men with bipolar disorder and women with substance use disorders are at particularly elevated risk for suicide.