Risk Factors for Suicide in a National Sample of Veterans With Multiple Sclerosis

Quinn D. Kellerman, Narineh Hartoonian, Megan L. Beier, Steven L. Leipertz, Charles Maynard, Trisha A. Hostetter, Jodie K. Haselkorn, Aaron P. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To examine risk factors in the year before suicide in a national sample of United States veterans with multiple sclerosis (MS), as well as means of suicide and receipt of mental health services prior to death. Design: Case control study. Individuals in the Veterans Affairs MS National Data Repository were linked to the National Death Index Plus to obtain death records, including specific causes of death. Participants were veterans with MS who died by suicide and randomly selected nonsuicide MS controls (5 per participant) who were alive at the time of the index suicide. Mental health disorders and medical comorbidities were identified in the year before death for suicides and during the identical time period for controls. Setting: Veterans Health Administration. Participants: Veterans (N=426) who received treatment for MS in the United States Veterans Health Administration between 1999 and 2011. There were 71 deaths by suicide and 355 randomly selected controls. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measure: Suicide. Results: Results from the adjusted multivariable model suggest that the following factors were associated with an increased risk for suicide: male sex (odds ratio [OR], 3.60; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.35-9.42), depression (OR, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.03-3.23), and alcohol use disorder (OR, 3.10; 95% CI, 1.38-6.96). Half (50.7%) had a mental health appointment in the year before suicide. The primary means of suicide was by firearm (62.0%). Conclusions: Routine assessment of suicide risk in individuals with MS is warranted, particularly for those with recent history of depression or alcohol use disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1138-1143
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of physical medicine and rehabilitation
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Cause of death
  • Depression
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rehabilitation
  • Suicide
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation


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