A recent study has linked concussions to a heightened long-term suicide risk.
If you have ever endured a concussion and have been feeling down, you are probably not alone. According to a report from Scientific American, a recent study from researchers at the University of Toronto has uncovered a startling link – they found that even mild concussions can increase the long-term risk of suicide by as much as three times.
The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reveals that it’s not only professional athletes that suffer from a heightened long-term suicide risk. Everyday people with everyday head injuries are at a similar risk for acting on suicidal tendencies.
“The typical patient I see is a middle-aged adult, not an elite athlete,” says Donald Redelmeier, one of the study’s head authors and a senior researcher at the University of Toronto. “And the usual circumstances for acquiring a concussion are not while playing football; it is when driving in traffic and getting into a crash, when missing a step and falling down a staircase, when getting overly ambitious about home repairs – the everyday activities of life.”
The study examined nearly 250,000 adults throughout Ontario who had sustained a concussion over the past 20 years. The study excluded sever concussions that resulted in longer-term hospitalization, and focused on mild concussions to see if there was any connection to mortality caused by suicide.
The researchers found that more than 660 suicides had occurred in people who had suffered from a concussion, a rate of about 31 deaths per 100,000 patients every year. The rate of suicides for the portion of the population that had sustained a concussion was nearly three times that of the general population.
The suicides occurred an average of six years after the concussions. The risk was present even after the researchers controlled for variables like psychiatric conditions, and was even shown to increase with subsequent concussions.
Redelmeier says there will need to be more studies carried out to establish a stronger link between concussions and suicide risk, but the study highlights a fascinating issue relating to even mild brain injuries.
A press release from the Sunnybrook Institute describing the details of the study can be found here.