Suicidal ideation and behavior in Huntington's disease: Systematic review and recommendations

Zachary R. Kachian, Shira Cohen-Zimerman*, Danny Bega, Barry Gordon, Jordan Grafman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: An increased risk of suicide in Huntington's disease (HD) patients is well documented, with rates significantly higher than those of the general population as well as other neurodegenerative diseases. However, despite its prevalence, the magnitude of this phenomenon as well as its predictors and etiology are still poorly understood. Methods: We performed the first systematic review of all the studies published between March 1993 and December 2018 which investigated HD patients and gene carriers that reported suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, or suicide as an outcome. Results: This review reveals that some aspects of suicidality in HD are more clearly understood than others. We confirm an increased risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and suicide for HD patients. We found that suicidal ideation is elevated throughout the course of the disease, and that psychiatric comorbidities are common risk factors with depression being the most prominent. Limitations: Important data are still largely missing, specifically regarding cognitive and neuroanatomical mechanisms and potential effective interventions. Moreover, inconsistencies in terminology, assessment tools, and outcome measures limit the comparability of the research and the conclusions that can be drawn. Conclusions: Incidence of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and suicide are higher among those with HD relative to the non-HD population. It is therefore important that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are closely monitored in HD clinics and that clinical trials use standardized scales. Future research should focus on better understanding the etiology of this high suicide risk and on testing the efficacy of potential interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-329
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Huntington's disease
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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