Suffering a traumatic brain injury or concussion may increase an individual’s risk of attempting suicide, according to the findings of a new study.
Researchers in the U.S. and Canada found that a head trauma appears to double the risk of suicide. The findings were published Monday in the journal JAMA Neurology, indicated patients who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion had a two-fold risk of suicide.
The researchers conducted a meta-analysis review of 17 studies published since 1963, all focusing on concussion and traumatic brain injury. The review included more than 700,000 patients who were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury compared to 6.2 million patients without a brain injury.
Suffering concussion was a clear risk factor of suicidal behavior among any patient who suffered a head injury. Those patients also had a higher risk of attempting suicide or having suicidal thoughts.
Overall, the absolute risk of suicide to any one concussion patient is low. Yet, concussion was still a risk factor and the risk of multiple concussions may increase the risk of suicide, but researchers are unclear to what extent.
This echoes the findings of a Danish study published in August, which indicated suicidal behavior is a side effect of head injuries. In fact, that study also concluded patients who suffered a head injury had double the risk of suicide.
Concussion is the most common form of traumatic brain injury. Most people fully recover within one week of injury, but some suffer other symptoms and side effects for long after.
Children who suffer a concussion face an increased risk of ADHD later in life, as well as increased risk of being diagnosed with depression. Other studies indicate people who suffer traumatic brain injuries are twice as likely to die from unintentional injuries and face an increased risk of ending up in jail.
The latest study calls for more research to determine why concussions may lead to suicidal behavior and how to address the issue.
One hypothesis focuses on the neurodegenerative impact a blow to the head may have on the brain. This may be in line with other research which indicates patients who suffer head injuries have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia, both neurodegenerative diseases.
Concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury in the country. Every year in the United States, roughly 2 million children suffer a concussion, with more than half of those failing to be examined by a medical professional.
Researchers said it was important to focus on effective strategies to prevent concussion. Those strategies include avoiding contact sports, especially at young ages. If that is unavoidable, make sure to wear a helmet and mouth guard to help protect the brain during activities, like football, basketball, and skateboarding.