TBI may nearly double a person’s risk for suicide
In the past, research has indicated that traumatic brain injury – often caused by falls, car crashes, or sports – is the leading cause of death for young adults in the developed world, followed by suicide. Now, research suggests these two causes of death may be more interrelated than originally expected.
According to findings published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people with traumatic brain injury were nearly twice as likely to take their own lives compared to those without a history of brain injury.
The findings suggest that the long-term effects of TBI may make individuals significantly more vulnerable to suicide compared to the average person.
The findings are the results of a statistical analysis of the Danish population using the Danish Cause of Death registry. The registry contains data on more than 7 million Danes and included information on more than 34,500 cases of suicide between 1980 and 2014.
The researchers say that approximately 10% of those who committed suicide also had a documented TBI during their lives.
“Individuals with mild TBI, with concussion, had an elevated suicide risk by 81%,” said Trine Madsen of the Danish Research Institute of Suicide Prevention, one of the authors of the study. “But individuals with severe TBI had a higher suicide risk that was more than double [the risk of someone with no TBI].”
The team identified three specific factors that most strongly predicted a person’s risk of suicide: the severity of the injury, a brain injury during early adulthood, and a hospital stay for a TBI in the past six months.
These findings alone are cause for concern and indicate a clear need for better screening and suicide prevention methods in those with a history of TBI. However, the team says their estimates are likely even lower than in reality, as traumatic brain injuries have historically been underdiagnosed until relatively recently.
The researchers also note that a large number of athletes experience concussions but never seek medical help for their injury for a variety of reasons.