Study links concussion to risk of later suicide

Recent study has found increased rates of suicide among patients with relatively severe traumatic brain injury.

Researchers have already linked more severe traumatic brain injury to later suicide—particularly in military veterans and professional athletes—and have more recently explored the connection between concussion and depression. Average people who suffer a concussion may be three times more likely to commit suicide years after their brain injury, a new Canadian study suggests.

Redelmeier, a senior scientist at the University of Toronto and one of the study’s lead authors and his team wanted to examine the risks of the concussions acquired under those circumstances. They identified nearly a quarter of a million adults in Ontario who were diagnosed with a mild concussion over a timespan of 20 years and tracked them for subsequent mortality due to suicide. It turned out that more than 660 suicides occurred among these patients, equivalent to 31 deaths per 100,000 patients annually—three times the population norm.  This risk was found to be independent of demographics or previous psychiatric conditions, and it increased with additional concussions.

The mean time from concussion to subsequent suicide was 5.7 years. Additional concussions were associated with a further increased risk of suicide. The majority of patients had visited their family physician in the month before suicide. The most common mechanism was a drug overdose, and the average age at death was 44 years.

It should be noted that not all concussions cause chemical imbalances in the brain, depression, suicidal thoughts, or other problems, but many do, and thus all concussions need to be taken very seriously.

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