More than 800,000 people die each year from suicide worldwide, and the rate of suicide among U.S. military veterans is now 1.5 times higher than the rate among civilians. In addition, for each adult who dies by suicide, there may be more than 20 others who make an attempt. As with many conditions, genetics provides one clue on the tragedy of suicide, but there are many other factors that may provide explanations for this phenomenon. New analyses presented at the American Society of Human Genetics 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting offers new information on how genetics may contribute to the multi-faceted roots of these tragic numbers. Using data from the Million Veteran Program, a team of researchers including Elizabeth Hauser, PhD, a statistical geneticist at Duke University and the Durham VA, conducted a genome-wide association study comparing U.S. veterans with a documented history of suicide attempts to U.S. veterans with no documented history of such thoughts or behaviors. Analyses conducted identified biologic factors underlying increased risk of suicide attempts. Dr. Hauser’s ASHG abstract, presented on October 18, 2021, is titled “Pathways Implicated in Risk for Suicide Attempts in the Million Veterans Program. The goal of the Million Veteran Program is to learn more about how genes affect health and to use this information to improve the lives of veterans and, ultimately, the general population. Since launching in 2011, more than 840,000 veterans have participated by volunteering their genetic and health data.
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