By Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, April 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Stroke patients are at significantly increased risk of suicide, especially during the first two years following the brain attack, a new Swedish study shows.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 220,000 people in Sweden who suffered a stroke between 2001 and 2012. They found that stroke patients were up to twice as likely to commit suicide as people in the general population, and the risk of attempted suicide was highest in the first two years after a stroke.
Among stroke patients younger than 55, the risk of suicide was five times higher than in the general population. And stroke patients with lower income or education levels were 37 percent more likely to try to take their lives than those with a university education.
The Umea University researchers also found that stroke patients who lived alone were 72 percent more likely to attempt suicide than those who lived with others.
The risk of suicide among stroke patients born outside of Europe was half that of those born in Europe. This may be due to cultural and religious factors, according to the study published April 8 in the journal Neurology.
Other risk factors linked to increased suicide risk among stroke patients were being male, having severe stroke-related disabilities and depression.
"The study shows the need of both psychological and social support, as well as concrete measures to prevent suicide attempts, in people who have had a stroke and are at high risk of attempted suicide," study senior author Marie Eriksson said in a university news release.
"The initiatives must also be put in place at an early stage as the risk of attempted suicide is greatest up to two years after a stroke," added Eriksson, a senior lecturer at the department of public health and clinical medicine at Umea.
Study co-author Dr. Eva-Lotta Glader added, "There is a clear risk that signs of mental illness and the risk of suicide attempts among people who have suffered a stroke is underestimated in health care services."