Folic acid, generally known as vitamin B9, has been linked to a 44% decrease in suicide ideation, according to a recent research published in JAMA Psychiatry. Suicide will be one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States in 2020, taking the lives of roughly 46,000 individuals. Psychotherapy, financial aid, social networks, and pharmaceuticals like antidepressants are only a few of the methods recommended by professionals to lessen the chances of suicide. Folic acid supplements aren’t something most people would think to include. That might change, though, according to new research from the University of Chicago.
What did the research find?
Health insurance claims data from 866,586 individuals were analyzed for the research, which was published on September 28 in JAMA Psychiatry. Over the course of two years, it examined whether or not folic acid medication was associated with an increased risk of suicide attempts. Patients who obtained folic acid, generally known as vitamin B9, via prescription filling had 44% fewer suicidal thoughts and attempts than those who did not. Because folic acid is so easily available, research author Robert Gibbons, PhD, is optimistic that these results might aid in suicide prevention efforts. He now holds the position of Blum-Riese Professor at the Departments of Biostatistics and Medicine at the University of Chicago.
The fact that Gibbons’s team has previously investigated connections between 922 different medications and suicide attempt risk is what piqued his interest in folic acid in this context. Each medicine was checked for links to either an increase or reduction in suicide attempts at the same time. Antidepressants, anxiolytics, and antipsychotics are often thought to increase the risk of suicide, but surprisingly, folic acid was also connected with a lower chance of suicide attempts.
One of the difficulties of the previous research was analyzing the effects of several medicines in a massive dataset. Many patients use many medications, and interactions between medications might alter their effects. Studies like this that attempt to find links in huge data sets might have trouble getting meaningful findings due to confounding factors, which can make it seem as if two variables in the research, like suicide and a drug, had a direct causal relationship with one another. Sometimes both of these are connected to the same underlying reason, such as a person’s socioeconomic situation or their health awareness, or because they are given to treat a disease that is linked to suicide. By comparing patients before and after receiving a medicine prescription, rather than comparing patients who did and did not take the drug to one another, Gibbons and his team were able to mitigate some of the confounding variables.