The Sardinian Puzzle: Concentration of Major Psychoses and Suicide in the Same Sub-Regions Across One Century

Alberto Bocchetta*, Francesco Traccis
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neurosciences and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy

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© 2017 Bocchetta and Traccis.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neurosciences and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cagliari, San Giovanni di Dio Hospital, Via Ospedale 46, 09124 Cagliari, Italy; Tel: +390706092321; Fax: +39070653584; E-mail:



Sardinia, the second largest Mediterranean island has long been considered a privileged observatory for the study of several medical conditions. The peculiar epidemiology of mood disorders and suicide across Sardinian sub-regions has long intrigued clinicians and researchers.


The principal aim of the present study was to test whether the geographical distribution of suicides committed in Sardinian over the last three decades are comparable with the geographical origin of patients hospitalized up to half a century ago.


The distribution of the municipalities of origin of the patients hospitalized in Sardinia between 1901 and 1964 for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression was reanalyzed and compared with the distribution of municipalities where suicides were committed between 1980 and 2013. Data were also analyzed by the altitude above the sea level and by the population size of the municipalities.


There was a significant variation of hospitalization and suicide rates across Sardinian sub-regions. The sub-regions of origin of the patients hospitalized for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder correlated with each other (P = 0.047). Both hospitalizations and suicides were more incident in municipalities with a higher altitude and a smaller population size. The incidence of hospitalizations and suicides correlated significantly with each other both at the municipality (P = 1.86 x 10-7) and at the sub-region level (P = 1.71 x 10-7).


The present study confirms the peculiar geographical distribution of major psychoses and suicide in Sardinia. The two phenomena appear to have been correlated for as long as one century.

Keywords: Mood disorders, Bipolar and related disorders, Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, Suicide, Hospital, Psychiatric, Altitude, Population Size, Sardinia.