Do antidepressants reduce suicide rates?

D. J. Safer, J. M. Zito

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Investigators from a number of countries have linked temporal declines in the rate of completed suicide in children and adults to the increasing utilization of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. They suggest that the relationship is causal. We undertook a thorough literature search of the rates of completed suicide using data from 1980 onwards, from the World Health Organization, the US National Center for Health Statistics, and related studies, in order to ascertain if a broad array of epidemiological evidence would or would not support a consistent association between suicide completion and SSRI utilization. The major findings were: (1) within and between countries, suicide rates vary prominently by age group; (2) national differences are marked with respect to a temporal association between rates of completed suicide and SSRI utilization; (3) in nearly half of the countries of the world, the decline in the suicide rate preceded the onset of the use of SSRIs; (4) suicide rates have fluctuated dramatically over the last century; and (5) the association between declining rates of completed suicides and increased SSRI use in the USA between 1990 and 1999 was no longer present between 2000 and 2004. We conclude that available ecological evidence does not support an inverse temporal relationship between rates of completed suicide and SSRI utilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-277
Number of pages4
JournalPublic Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Antidepressants
  • Ecological evidence
  • SSRIs
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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