Genetics of Suicidality

Abstract

Suicide is the 15th leading cause of death, making it a serious public health problem. While external life influences tend to be the focus of why suicide attempts occur, there is consistent evidence that underlying genetic determinants contribute substantially to suicidal ideation. In this article, we first review the general epidemiology of suicide and then discuss the various ways genetic determinants result in suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide itself. Specifically, we discuss how other psychiatric illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, alcoholism and schizophrenia are comorbid with suicidality, thereby making the genetic determinants for these other psychiatric conditions also genetic risk factors for suicidality. We do this by reviewing the current genetic research findings from these psychiatric conditions and link the findings to suicidality.

Key Concepts

  • Suicidality is a complex disease that is a result of both genetic and environmental influences.
  • Suicidality often cooccurs with other psychiatric conditions.
  • There is often an environmental trigger, which, in conjunction with a genetic predisposition, can result in suicide attempts.
  • Several of the genetic underpinnings for other psychiatric disorders are likely also associated with suicidality.
  • More research is necessary to identify and confirm genetic variants for suicidality.

Keywords: suicidal ideation; suicidality; genetics; genome‐wide association studies; candidate gene studies; bipolar disorder; depression; schizophrenia

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Further Reading

Nordstrom P and Asberg M (1992) Suicide risk and serotonin. International Clinical Psychopharmacology 6 (Suppl 6): 12–21.

Roy A, Rylander G and Sarchiapone M (1997) Genetics of suicides. Family studies and molecular genetics. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 836: 135–157.

Willour VL, Seifuddin F, Mahon PB, et al. (2012) A genome‐wide association study of attempted suicide. Molecular Psychiatry 17: 433–444.

Zai CC, Goncalves VF, Tiwari AK, et al. (2015) A genome‐wide association study of suicide severity scores in bipolar disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research 65: 23–29.

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Blackman, Olivia, and Jessica, Lasky‐Su(Jan 2017) Genetics of Suicidality. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0025216]