A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on February 5th suggests that women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) may have up to eight times greater risk of attempting suicide compared to women without the disorder. The results emphasize the importance of screening for mental health in all patients who may be suffering from the syndrome, according to the researchers.
Dr. Mu-Hong Chen, a treating psychiatrist at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan and co-author of the study, stated that detecting such conditions earlier in clinical practice can reduce the risk and the severe consequences. PCOS affects up to 15% of women of reproductive age in the United States, about six million people. The condition is associated with an increased risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and stroke. It is also associated with infertility, weight gain, hirsutism, and skin changes, which can lead to a poorer self-image and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Chen and his co-authors compared records of nearly 19,000 women aged 12 to 64 diagnosed with PCOS with a corresponding control group of 189,600 women and girls without PCOS, using data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database from 1997 to 2012. The cohorts were matched for age, income, urbanization, and mental health status.
The study found that women diagnosed with PCOS had an 8.47 times higher risk of attempting suicide during the 16-year follow-up period compared to women without PCOS. The risk was slightly lower in older women with PCOS compared to younger women, but higher compared to older women without PCOS. Adolescents with PCOS had a more than five times higher risk of suicide attempt compared to the control group, while those aged 20 to 40 had more than nine times higher risk, and those over 40 had the lowest risk.
Dr. Ricardo Azziz, a Professor at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, noted that the number of women with PCOS in the study was likely underreported and the included women likely had more severe cases. The results „indicate that women with PCOS actually suffer from mental disorders more often and that doctors, patients themselves, and their families need to be aware of these risks“, said Azziz.
Azziz recommended that doctors should inquire about suicide risk and mental health in their PCOS patients and be prepared to refer them to a specialist if they show signs of distress. The study was funded by grants from Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Yen Tjing Ling Medical Foundation, and the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan. The study authors disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
Liz Seegert is an award-winning health journalist based in the New York Hudson Valley.