Rona J. Strawbridge, Joey Ward, Amy Ferguson, Nicholas Graham, Richard J. Shaw, Breda Cullen, Robert Pearsall, Laura M. Lyall, Keira J.A. Johnston, Claire L. Niedzwiedz, Jill P. Pell, Daniel Mackay, Julie Langan Martin, Donald M. Lyall, Mark E.S. Bailey, Daniel J. Smith

EBioMedicine (2019) 41:517-525


Suicide is a major issue for global public health. Suicidality describes a broad spectrum of thoughts and behaviours, some of which are common in the general population. Although suicide results from a complex interaction of multiple social and psychological factors, predisposition to suicidality is at least partly genetic.


Ordinal genome-wide association study of suicidality in the UK Biobank cohort comparing: ‘no suicidality’ controls (N = 83,557); ‘thoughts that life was not worth living’ (N = 21,063); ‘ever contemplated self-harm’ (N = 13,038); ‘act of deliberate self-harm in the past’ (N = 2498); and ‘previous suicide attempt’ (N = 2666).


We identified three novel genome-wide significant loci for suicidality (on chromosomes nine, 11 and 13) and moderate-to-strong genetic correlations between suicidality and a range of psychiatric disorders, most notably depression (rg0·81).


These findings provide new information about genetic variants relating to increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Future work should assess the extent to which polygenic risk scores for suicidality, in combination with non-genetic risk factors, may be useful for stratified approaches to suicide prevention at a population level.