Sex-Specific Risk Profiles for Suicide Among Persons with Substance Use Disorders in Denmark

Rachel Sayko Adams, Tammy Jiang, Anthony J. Rosellini, Erzsébet Horváth-Puhó, Amy E. Street, Katherine M. Keyes, Magdalena Cerdá, Timothy L. Lash, Henrik Toft Sørensen, Jaimie L. Gradus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Aims: Persons with substance use disorders (SUDs) are at elevated risk of suicide death. We identified novel risk factors and interactions that predict suicide among men and women with SUD using machine learning. Design: Case–cohort study. Setting: Denmark. Participants: The sample was restricted to persons with their first SUD diagnosis during 1995 to 2015. Cases were persons who died by suicide in Denmark during 1995 to 2015 (n = 2774) and the comparison subcohort was a 5% random sample of individuals in Denmark on 1 January 1995 (n = 13 179). Measurements: Suicide death was recorded in the Danish Cause of Death Registry. Predictors included social and demographic information, mental and physical health diagnoses, surgeries, medications, and poisonings. Findings: Persons among the highest risk for suicide, as identified by the classification trees, were men prescribed antidepressants in the 4 years before suicide and had a poisoning diagnosis in the 4 years before suicide; and women who were 30+ years old and had a poisoning diagnosis 4 years before and 12 months before suicide. Among men with SUD, the random forest identified five variables that were most important in predicting suicide; reaction to severe stress and adjustment disorders, drugs used to treat addictive disorders, age 30+ years, antidepressant use, and poisoning in the 4 prior years. Among women with SUD, the random forest found that the most important predictors of suicide were prior poisonings and reaction to severe stress and adjustment disorders. Individuals in the top 5% of predicted risk accounted for 15% of all suicide deaths among men and 24% of all suicides among women. Conclusions: In Denmark, prior poisoning and comorbid psychiatric disorders may be among the most important indicators of suicide risk among persons with substance use disorders, particularly among women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol-related disorders, Denmark, machine learning, poisoning, substance use disorder, suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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