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Little is known about environmental factors that may influence associations between genetic liability to suicidality and suicidal behavior.
This study examined whether a suicidality polygenic risk score (PRS) derived from a large genome-wide association study (N = 122,935) was associated with suicide attempts in a population-based sample of European-American US military veterans (N = 1664; 92.5% male), and whether cumulative lifetime trauma exposure moderated this association.
Eighty-five veterans (weighted 6.3%) reported a history of suicide attempt. After adjusting for sociodemographic and psychiatric characteristics, suicidality PRS was associated with lifetime suicide attempt (odds ratio 2.65; 95% CI 1.37–5.11). A significant suicidality PRS-by-trauma exposure interaction emerged, such that veterans with higher levels of suicidality PRS and greater trauma burden had the highest probability of lifetime suicide attempt (16.6%), whereas the probability of attempts was substantially lower among those with high suicidality PRS and low trauma exposure (1.4%). The PRS-by-trauma interaction effect was enriched for genes implicated in cellular and developmental processes, and nervous system development, with variants annotated to the DAB2 and SPNS2 genes, which are implicated in inflammatory processes. Drug repurposing analyses revealed upregulation of suicide gene-sets in the context of medrysone, a drug targeting chronic inflammation, and clofibrate, a triacylglyceride level lowering agent.
Results suggest that genetic liability to suicidality is associated with increased risk of suicide attempt among veterans, particularly in the presence of high levels of cumulative trauma exposure. Additional research is warranted to investigate whether incorporation of genomic information may improve suicide prediction models.
The coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused myriad health, social, and economic stressors. To date, however, no known study has examined changes in mental health during the pandemic in the U.S. military veteran population.
Data were analyzed from the 2019–2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, a nationally representative, prospective cohort survey of 3078 veterans. Pre-to-peri-pandemic changes in psychiatric symptoms were evaluated, as well as pre-pandemic risk and protective factors and pandemic-related correlates of increased psychiatric distress.
The prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) positive screens increased from pre- to peri-pandemic (7.1% to 9.4%; p < 0.001) and was driven by an increase among veterans aged 45–64 years (8.2% to 13.5%; p < 0.001), but the prevalence of major depressive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder positive screens remained stable. Using a continuous measure of psychiatric distress, an estimated 13.2% of veterans reported a clinically meaningful pre-to-peri-pandemic increase in distress (mean = 1.1 standard deviation). Veterans with a larger pre-pandemic social network size and secure attachment style were less likely to experience increased distress, whereas veterans reporting more pre-pandemic loneliness were more likely to experience increased distress. Concerns about pandemic-related social losses, mental health COVID-19 effects, and housing stability during the pandemic were associated with increased distress, over-and-above pre-pandemic factors.
Although most U.S. veterans showed resilience to mental health problems nearly 1 year into the pandemic, the prevalence of GAD positive screens increased, particularly among middle-aged veterans, and one of seven veterans experienced increased distress. Clinical implications of these findings are discussed.
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