Researchers at the University of Bristol recently published in the journal Psychiatry Research their findings concerning the association between asthma and atopy with suicide risk. The study is entitled “Risk of suicide for individuals reporting asthma and atopy in young adulthood: Findings from the Glasgow Alumni study.”
Asthma and atopy, the genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases, have been suggested to be associated with a higher risk of suicide ideation and depression. Bristol researchers have studied this possible link between pre-defined asthma and atopy phenotypes with suicide using the Glasgow Alumni cohort study, which corresponds to a historical cohort of university students with available information regarding the individual socioeconomic status and smoking habits. As part of this cohort, a subset of students has also provided information regarding mental health and depression.
Between 1948 and 1968, students at the University of Glasgow were invited to participate in an annual medical examination, which had a follow-up between 2001 and 2002. In the end, data from 11,463 cohort participants was collected, among whom there were 32 suicides up to the end of 2012. The participants were assessed while adjusting the results for parameters like the socioeconomic position and smoking habits.
Researchers found that asthma was more prevalent in males, while atopy was more prevalent in females. In addition, females reported a greater proportion of depression or poor mental health in comparison with males. The team concluded that compared to previous studies, they were unable to find evidence for an association between asthma and/or atopy in students with a posterior suicide. When assessing secondary outcomes however, it was found that individuals with a combination of hay fever, eczema–urticaria and a family history of atopy had a higher suicide risk. However, these last observations are based in small numbers and therefore a chance event could not be excluded by the researchers.
According to the team, this study adds evidence to the growing body of research focused on the relation between atopy, asthma and suicide. Further studies in other populations with greater sample sizes and available information about individual features, such as mental history, medication and lifestyle, are needed to draw stronger conclusions regarding this possible link.