SSRIs and risk of suicide attempts in young people – A Danish observational register-based historical cohort study, using propensity score

<p><i>Background:</i> SSRIs are widely used in the treatment of mental illness for both children and adults. Studies have found a slightly increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in young people using SSRIs but SSRIs’ impact on risk for suicides in youth is not well-established. <i>Aim:</i> Is there indication that SSRIs might raise risk for suicide attempts in young people? <i>Methods:</i> We used an observational register-based historical cohort design, a large cohort of all Danish individuals born in 1983–1989 (n = 392,458) and a propensity score approach to analyse the impact from SSRIs on risk for suicide attempts. Every suicide attempt and redeemed prescription of SSRIs was analysed by Cox regression. <i>Results:</i> We found a significant overlap between redeeming a prescription on SSRIs and subsequent suicide attempt. The risk for suicide attempt was highest in the first 3 months after redeeming the first prescription. The hazard ratio for suicide attempts after redeeming a prescription was estimated to 5.23, 95% CI 4.82–5.68. <i>Conclusion:</i> We conclude that the risk of suicide attempt is higher for young people in the first months after redeeming their first prescription for SSRIs, compared to non-users. For SSRI users with lower propensity score (fewer risk factors for SSRIs) the risk of suicide attempt is estimated to be highest. Although the design may miss some explicit reason for prescription of SSRIs and SSRIs might be a marker for those in high risk rather than a causal risk factor, we would recommend systematic risk assessment in the period after redeeming the first prescription.</p>