MONDAY, June 22, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- People with schizophrenia have a suicide rate 170 times higher than the general population, Canadian researchers report.
The researchers looked at 20 years of population data, including information on 75,000 patients with schizophrenia. Each was followed for about 10 years, on average.
Risk of suicide was heightened the first five years after the mental illness was diagnosed, the researchers said.
Suicide risk was also heightened if the patient had a mood disorder or was hospitalized before diagnosis.
Later age at diagnosis was also linked to higher odds of suicide.
"What this study teaches us is that although people with schizophrenia spectrum disorder [SSD] are at higher risk for suicide, we can target those at the highest risk with changes in policy and treatment," said researcher Dr. Juveria Zaheer, from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.
"Now that we know what is happening, we need to better understand why," said Zaheer, a clinician scientist at the center's Institute for Mental Health Policy Research.
Clearly, treating schizophrenia symptoms isn't enough, said study co-author Dr. Paul Kurdyak.
"In the past, clinicians have focused on treating the psychosis itself when it first appears," said Kurdyak, director of health outcomes and performance evaluation at the institute.
"This study shows that treatment has to include suicide prevention safety planning as well from the very beginning," he said in a news release from the center.
The report was published June 18 in the journal Schizophrenia Research.
For more schizophrenia, head to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
SOURCES: Center for Addiction and Mental Health, June 18, 2020, news release,