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Associations between treatment with melatonin and suicidal behavior: a nationwide cohort study

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STUDY OBJECTIVES: Melatonin is often prescribed to patients with sleep disorders who are known to have elevated suicide risks, yet melatonin's association with suicidal behavior remains to be examined. We investigated whether individuals prescribed melatonin had higher rates of suicide and suicide attempts when compared to individuals who were not prescribed this drug, including both those with and without known mental disorders.

METHODS: A cohort design was applied to longitudinal, register data on all persons aged ≥ 10 years in Denmark during 2007-2016. Based on data from the National Prescription Registry, periods of being in treatment with melatonin were defined using information on the number of tablets and the daily defined dose. We calculated incidence rate ratios for suicide and suicide attempts, as identified in register records, comparing those in treatment with melatonin to those not in treatment.

RESULTS: Among 5,798,923 individuals, 10,577 (0.2%) were treated with melatonin (mean treatment length, 50 days) during the study period. Of those, 22 died by suicide and 134 had at least 1 suicide attempt. People in treatment with melatonin had a 4-fold higher rate of suicide (incidence rate ratio, 4.8; 95% CI, 3.0-7.5) and a 5-fold higher rate of suicide attempt (incidence rate ratio, 5.9; 95% CI, 4.4-8.0) than those not in treatment and when adjusting for sex and age group.

CONCLUSIONS: Treatment with melatonin was associated with suicide and suicide attempt. Although there are several possible explanations, attention to suicide risk is particularly warranted for people with mental comorbidity who are in treatment with melatonin.

CITATION: Høier NK, Madsen T, Spira AP, et al. Associations between treatment with melatonin and suicidal behavior: a nationwide cohort study. J Clin Sleep Med. 2022;18(10):2451-2458.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)2451-2458
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

    Research areas

  • Cohort Studies, Humans, Melatonin/therapeutic use, Mental Disorders/drug therapy, Risk Factors, Suicidal Ideation, Suicide, Attempted, sleep disorder, melatonin treatment, suicide, suicide prevention, melatonin

ID: 79336632