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February 08, 2016

Study: Concussions linked to higher long-term risk of suicide

Canadian study analyzed records of more than 235,000 patients

A new study from Canada has found that adults who have sustained a concussion have a three times greater long-term risk of suicide, Reuters reported.

The study, conducted by the University of Toronto, differs from previous research because it looked at the general population, not just athletes or members of the military. In fact, researchers found that the risk was greater in the adults they studied than in military members in general.

The researchers analyzed 20 years worth of data, identifying more than 235,000 patients who had been diagnosed with a concussion. Out of this group, 667 committed suicide, or a rate of 31 deaths per 100,000 annually. While that rate is thankfully small, it's still three times more than normal.

Notably, the patients' demographics and past psychiatric history did not change their suicide risk.

According to the study, concussions that happened on the weekend carried an even larger risk than concussions that happened on weekdays, possibly because patients are more likely to get proper treatment when they're at work rather than out on the town.

One explanation of why concussions could be linked to suicide is that people who drink excessively and get into a lot of fights are both more likely to sustain a concussion and more likely to commit suicide. Another theory is that concussions cause lasting damage to brain cells.

There is hope for preventing future deaths: Half of the patients who committed suicide visited a doctor in their last week of life. If doctors are aware that their patients have had a concussion, they can look out for warning signs of suicide and get them the help they need.

Read the full story here.

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