People who receive concussions often have a wide range of cognitive problems, but a new study suggests that they are also more likely to commit suicide. In fact, according to the study, people who have had concussions in the past are three times as likely to commit suicide.
Concussions are the most common form of brain injury in North America, with over four million people in the U.S. and 400,000 in Canada receiving concussions every year. They result from physical trauma to the brain, which can occur in car accidents, contact sports, or during any situation where someone’s head is violently hit or shaken.
Concussions have been linked to a wide range of neurological problems, such as memory loss and slowed thinking, as well as an increased risk of developing dementia. However, a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has found that concussions also increase the risk of suicide.
In the study, researchers looked at the medical records of over 235,000 patients in Ontario who had suffered from a concussion. They looked at the long-term health of these patients. They had all suffered from minor concussions, which means that they were not hospitalized. The patients were almost equally split between men and women, with a median age of 41 years old. Most of the patients had never attempted suicide before and had no history of psychiatric disorders.
The researchers found that the patients were three times as likely to commit suicide compared to the general population. “Patients who experienced a concussion were at increased risk of suicide regardless of demographic factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status, or past psychiatric conditions,” said lead researcher Dr. Donald Redelmeier.
The results of the study indicate that even minor concussions that don’t require hospitalization or that don’t seem to cause any noticeable symptoms can have a severe impact on the brain and can increase people’s risk of death from suicide.
The study found that there was an even greater increased risk if the concussion occurred on a weekend. As well, for each additional concussion received, patients had a 30% increase in their risk of suicide.
The study also found that there was typically 5.6 years between when a patient received a concussion and when they committed suicide. According to Dr. Redelmeier, this could be due to long-lasting brain injury that causes greater problems as it continues.
However, the exact reason why minor concussions and suicide risk are linked is still unknown. More research will have to be conducted.
It is also unknown why concussions that occur on the weekend have a greater suicide risk. One theory is that since these concussions may be sustained in recreational activities (such as driving, partying, or playing sports), people may feel more guilt and responsibility for their injury compared to those which happen at work.
The results of the study show that more attention should be placed on preventing and treating even minor head trauma. The researchers hope that the study will help both doctors and patients pay more attention to long-term care following concussions. They believe the study results can help reduce the risk of suicide and save lives.
Source for Today’s Article:
Fralick, Michael, et al, “Risk of suicide after a concussion,” Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2016; doi: 10.1503/cmaj.150790.