Anti-Depressants and Suicide

55 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2007

See all articles by Jens Ludwig

Jens Ludwig

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Dave E. Marcotte

University of Maryland Baltimore County; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Karen Norberg

Boston University - Department of Psychiatry; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 2007

Abstract

Does drug treatment for depression with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase or decrease the risk of completed suicide? The question is important in part because of recent government warnings that question the safety of SSRIs, one of the most widely prescribed medications in the world. While there are plausible clinical and behavioral arguments that SSRIs could have either positive or negative effects on suicide, randomized clinical trials have not been very informative because of small samples and other problems. In this paper we use data from 26 countries for up to 25 years to estimate the effect of SSRI sales on suicide mortality using just the variation in SSRI sales that can be explained by cross-country variation in the growth of drug sales more generally. We find that an increase in SSRI sales of 1 pill per capita (about a 12 percent increase over 2000 sales levels) is associated with a decline in suicide mortality of around 5 percent. These estimates imply a cost per statistical life far below most other government interventions to improve health outcomes.

Suggested Citation

Ludwig, Jens and Marcotte, Dave E. and Norberg, Karen, Anti-Depressants and Suicide (February 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w12906. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=963739

Jens Ludwig (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Public Policy Institute (GPPI) ( email )

3600 N Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20057
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Dave E. Marcotte

University of Maryland Baltimore County ( email )

1000 Hilltop Circle
Policy Sciences Graduate Program 621 Administration Building
Baltimore, MD 21250
United States
410-455-1455 (Phone)
410-455-1172 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Karen Norberg

Boston University - Department of Psychiatry ( email )

Boston, MA
United States
617-414-7516 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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