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Study Links Traumatic Brain Injury To Increased Suicide Risk

The findings of a new study suggest that side effects of concussions and traumatic brain injuries may increase the risk of suicidal behavior. 

In a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers from Denmark found that the risk of death by suicide doubled among individuals who had suffered a head injury.

A traumatic brain injury can be suffered from even one minor blow, or bump to the head, which can cause serious brain damage. Symptoms may include dizziness, nausea, headache, sensitivity to light, increased aggression, and disorientation.

Past research has highlighted a number of potential side effects of a traumatic head injury, including findings that such individuals may be more likely to suffer dementia later in life and a greater risk of premature death.

The brain damage has also been linked to a number of other consequences that may be less expected, such as a higher risk of going to prison, or dying from accidental injuries.

In this latest study, researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study using national Denmark registries to collect data on more than 34,000 individuals who died by suicide from 1980 to 2014. According to their findings, the absolute suicide rate was 41 per 100,000 person-years among those who had suffered a traumatic brain injury. That compares to just 20 per 100,000 person-years among those with no diagnosis of severe head injury.

An editorial published in JAMA in reference to the study notes that the study is the latest evidence linking head trauma to later suicidal ideations.

“The findings reported by Madsen and colleagues in this issue of JAMA add to a growing body of evidence pointing to traumatic brain injury (TBI) as an important risk factor for suicide,” Drs. Lee Goldstein and Ramon Diaz-Arrastia wrote. “TBI is particularly common in young adults and the elderly, and severe TBI has long been recognized as a leading cause of death and disability. However, only recently has it been recognized that TBI on the mid end of the injury spectrum can also have persistent and disabling consequences.”

The editorial notes that suicide accounts for 1.4% of deaths worldwide and is the 17th leading cause of death overall in the world. It is the second leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults.

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