Study Links Concussion to Risk of Later Suicide
But while researchers found an association, they didn't prove cause-and-effect
By Dennis Thompson
MONDAY, Feb. 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- 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.
Further, the long-term risk of suicide appears to increase even more if the head injury occurs during a weekend, researchers found.
Based on these results, loved ones and physicians should keep a close eye on anyone who's had a concussion, even if the head injury happened years ago, said senior author Dr. Donald Redelmeier, senior core scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and a physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto.
"Nobody commits suicide in the immediate weeks or the immediate months after the concussion," Redelmeier said, noting that suicide tended to occur on average nearly six years following the head injury.
It's important to note, however, that this study only showed an association between concussion and suicide; it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
Most research on long-term effects of concussion has involved military veterans and professional athletes, Redelmeier said. But he and his colleagues wanted to investigate whether garden-variety concussions cause any lasting problems for the general population.
They combed medical records to find every adult diagnosed with a concussion anywhere in Ontario during a two-decade period. The researchers looked for people who had concussions, but didn't need surgery and didn't need to be hospitalized, Redelmeier said. They came up with more than 235,000 people who'd had a concussion. From this group, 677 committed suicide.
Concussion patients wound up committing suicide at a rate of 31 per 100,000 people annually, researchers found. That's more than triple the average Canadian suicide rate of nine per 100,000 people each year, Redelmeier said
Findings from the study were published Feb. 8 in the CMAJ.
People who got a concussion on the weekends fared even worse, with four times the average suicide rate, the researchers said.
The increased risk remained even after researchers accounted for people with a prior history of psychiatric problems.