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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2013 Dec;47(12):1191-5. doi: 10.1177/0004867413510212.

High impact child abuse may predict risk of elevated suicidality during antidepressant initiation.

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1Deakin University, IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, School of Medicine, Geelong, Australia.



Concerns have emerged that initiation of an antidepressant can lead to or exacerbate suicidality. If those more at risk could be identified prior to treatment, treatment risk benefit analysis and patient risk management could be assisted.


This study investigated the role of child abuse and ongoing emotional impact from abuse on the risk of suicidality during the first week of treatment with an antidepressant. The patient sample for this study was drawn from one site of a larger pharmacogenetic study. The hypothesis was that subjects with high impact child abuse would have greater elevation of suicidality during the first week of antidepressant treatment.


Fifty-one subjects were initiated on either venlafaxine (VEN) or escitalopram (ESC) for major depressive disorder (MDD) and had pre-treatment suicidality assayed with the reasons for living scale (RFLS), which was repeated after one week of treatment. Several clinical, demographic and genotype variables were controlled for. The 15-item Impact of Event Scale (IES-15) was administered to subjects reporting abuse to dichotomise the abuse group into low and high (IES-15 ≥ 26) impact groups for sub-analysis as per the scales validated rating guidelines.


Subjects reporting no child abuse exposure were less likely to have increased suicidality during the first week of antidepressant treatment (7.6%) compared to subjects with low impact abuse (38.5%, p = 0.041) and high impact abuse (58.3%, p = 0.009). Only high impact abuse predicted increased suicidality after adjustment for potential confounders such as depression severity (OR = 31.5, 95% CI = 1.3 to 748.7, p = 0.03).


If these findings are replicated in larger samples, child abuse history could become an important element of assessing risk benefit balance when initiating antidepressants and may help guide the level of patient review needed during antidepressant initiation.


Child abuse; antidepressant; major depression; suicidality

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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