Suicide attempt by jumping: a study of gonadal axis hormones in male suicide attempters versus men who fell by accident.Psychiatry Res. 2009 Nov 30; 170(1):82-5.PR
Low plasma total testosterone (T) levels may influence the sense of well-being and produce depressive symptomatology, increasing the risk of suicide. In a previous study, we reported reduced serum T levels in male psychiatric patients after a suicide attempt. The reduction was more pronounced in subjects who used violent attempt methods, and we discussed the possible influence of stress of hospitalization, serious medical condition and treatment. In order to minimize the influence of such factors, we compared in this study the levels of plasma sex hormones of 15 psychiatric patients (10 suffering from schizophrenia and 5 from depression) who had attempted suicide by jumping with those of a group of 18 male subjects who were hospitalized after accidentally falling from a high height. Compared with a healthy control group of 40 males, both accident and attempt groups had lower T levels. The attempt group showed a trend toward lower T levels compared with levels in the accident group. In the accident group, luteinizing hormone (LH) levels were elevated compared with levels in healthy controls, indicating a normal function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. This was not the case for the attempt group, where low T levels were not accompanied by increases in LH. Cortisol and prolactin were similarly elevated in both patient groups, but were not related to the low T levels. The results indicate that male psychiatric patients who attempt suicide by violent methods may have low total plasma T levels, possibly due to a dysfunction of the HPG axis at the hypothalamic-pituitary level. Monitoring HPG axis function in future studies could prove to be a predictor of suicide at least for male psychiatric attempters, and could lead to preventive strategies.