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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2001 Sep;104(3):163-72.

Lower suicide risk with long-term lithium treatment in major affective illness: a meta-analysis.

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Consolidated Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience Program, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



To compare suicide rates with vs. without long-term lithium treatment in major affective disorders.


Broad searching yielded 22 studies providing suicide rates during lithium maintenance; 13 also provide rates without such treatment. Study quality was scored, between-study variance tested, and suicide rates on vs. off lithium examined by meta-analyses using random-effects regression methods to model risk ratios.


Among 5647 patients (33 473 patient-years of risk) in 22 studies, suicide was 82% less frequent during lithium-treatment (0.159 vs. 0.875 deaths/100 patient-years). The computed risk-ratio in studies with rates on/off lithium was 8.85 (95% CI, 4.12-19.1; P<0.0001). Higher rates off-lithium were not accounted for by treatment-discontinuation.


Suicide risk was consistently lower during long-term treatment of major affective illnesses with lithium in all studies in the meta-analysis, including the few involving treatment-randomization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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