Suicide: Genetics and Heritability

Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2020;46:63-78. doi: 10.1007/7854_2020_161.


Nature vs nurture is, and has been, a never stopping debate since Lamarck and Darwin exposed their corresponding theories on evolution, and even before them, such discussion already existed. Is suicide a heritable conduct? Is it learnt? Maybe the answer is both and none, at the same time. From genetic twin studies to epigenetic and environmental influence on development, this chapter aims to take a look at different points of view and most relevant theories in one of the worlds leading causes of death, specially for young individuals. We explore different studies aiming to find biomarkers for suicide, as well as other traits frequently encountered in individuals who engage in suicidal behavior, such as impulsivity, aggressivity, and hopelessness. Finally, this chapter also looks at some of the most recent approaches in treatment and prevention of suicidal behavior, in order to highlight what they have in common and try to explain (at least partially) why they could be effective.

Keywords: Cognition; Environmental; Epigenetics; Heritability; Suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Phenotype
  • Suicide*