Increased suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in COVID-19 patients in the United States: Statistics from a large national insurance billing database
Reinke, M., Falke, C., Cohen, K., Anderson, D., Cullen, K.R., & Nielson, J.L.
Emerging research suggests suicidality may have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. This cross-sectional study aimed to advance understanding of suicide risk during the pandemic through novel use of a large insurance database. Using logistic regression across time-points, we estimated the effect of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 infection on rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in infected individuals versus uninfected controls during the pandemic (March 2020 - September 2021). In uninfected individuals, we estimated the effect of exposure to the pandemic period versus the pre-pandemic control period (January 2017 to February 2020) on suicidality rates. We also investigated within-pandemic temporal patterns of suicidality. All patients with data in the UnitedHealth Group claims during those intervals were included. ICD-10 codes defined suicidality measures. There were 525,312,717 (62.3% over age 45, 57.7% female) included encounters. From the pandemic subsample (32.8%), 1.7% were COVID+. Adjusted odds ratios showed that COVID+ patients were significantly more likely to have suicidal ideation and suicide attempts than COVID- patients. Among COVID- patients, adjusted odds of suicidality were significantly lower during versus prior to the pandemic. Results were unfortunately limited by the absence of data on deaths by suicide. Further research should examine how SARS-CoV-2 infection may influence suicidality.