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Purpose: There is weak and inconsistent evidence that mood instability (MI) is associated with depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidality although the basis of this is unclear. Our objectives were first to test whether there is an association between depression and PTSD, and MI and secondly whether MI exerts an independent effect on suicidal thinking over and above that explained by common mental disorders. Methods: We used data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007 (N = 7,131). Chi-square tests were used to examine associations between depression and PTSD, and MI, followed by regression modelling to examine associations between MI and depression, and with PTSD. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to assess the independent effect of MI on suicidal thinking, after adjustment for demographic factors and the effects of common mental disorder diagnoses. Results: There are high rates of MI in depression and PTSD and the presence of MI increases the odds of depression by 10.66 [95 % confidence interval (CI) 7.51-15.13] and PTSD by 8.69 (95 % CI 5.90-12.79), respectively, after adjusting for other factors. Mood instability independently explained suicidal thinking, multiplying the odds by nearly five (odds ratio 4.82; 95 % CI 3.39-6.85), and was individually by some way the most important single factor in explaining suicidal thoughts. Conclusions: MI is strongly associated with depression and PTSD. In people with common mental disorders MI is clinically significant as it acts as an additional factor exacerbating the risk of suicidal thinking. It is important to enquire about MI as part of clinical assessment and treatment studies are required. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Original publication




Journal article


Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

Publication Date



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