Suicidality in Huntington's disease

J Affect Disord. 2012 Feb;136(3):550-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.10.031. Epub 2011 Nov 25.


Background: In Huntington's disease (HD) the risk of suicide is increased. Since suicidality may precede suicide, this study investigates prevalence, clinical associations and predictors of suicidality in HD.

Methods: Suicidality was investigated in 152 mutation carriers and 56 non-carriers, and was considered present if the score on the item 'suicidal ideation' of the Problem Behaviours Assessment (PBA) was >1 point. After 2 years, 100 mutation carriers who were free of suicidality at baseline were re-assessed. Associations and predictors of suicidality were analyzed using multivariate logistic regression analysis.

Results: Eleven (20%) pre-motor and 20 (20%) motor symptomatic mutation carriers were considered suicidal compared to none of the non-carriers. Cross-sectionally, suicidal mutation carriers were more likely to use antidepressants (odds ratio=5.3), were more often apathetic (OR=2.8), more often had a depressed mood according to the PBA (OR=5.9), and were more often diagnosed with a DSM-IV depression diagnosis (OR=4.7). Independent associations were more frequent use of antidepressants (OR=4.0) and presence of a depressed mood (OR=4.2). Longitudinally, depressed mood (OR=10.6) at baseline was the only independent predictor of suicidality at follow-up.

Limitations: Selection bias might have occurred which could have affected the suicidality rate.

Conclusion: It is important to screen both pre-motor and motor symptomatic HD mutation carriers for suicidality. The presence of a depressed mood is both associated with and predictive of suicidality in HD and assessment of depressed mood can help to identify individuals with increased risk for suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / epidemiology
  • Huntington Disease / genetics
  • Huntington Disease / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data