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Suicide after traumatic brain injury: a population study
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  1. T W Teasdale,
  2. A W Engberg
  1. Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Njalsgade 88, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark
  1. Dr T W Teasdaleteasdale{at}psy.ku.dk

Abstract

OBJECTIVES To determine the rates of suicide among patients who have had a traumatic brain injury.

METHODS From a Danish population register of admissions to hospital covering the years 1979–93 patients were selected who had had either a concussion (n=126 114), a cranial fracture (n=7560), or a cerebral contusion or traumatic intracranial haemorrhage (n=11 766). All cases of deaths by the end of the study period were identified.

RESULTS In the three diagnostic groups there had been 750 (0.59%), 46 (0.61%), and 99 (0.84%) cases of suicide respectively. Standardised mortality ratios, stratified by sex and age, showed that the incidence of suicide among the three diagnostic groups was increased relative to the general population (3.0, 2.7, and 4.1 respectively). In all diagnosis groups the ratios were higher for females than for males, and lower for patients injured before the age of 21 or after the age of 60. The presence of a codiagnosis relating to substance misuse was associated with increased suicide rates in all diagnosis groups. There was a tendency, among patients with cerebral contusions or traumatic intracranial haemorrhages, for suicide risk to increase with duration of stay in hospital. Cox regression analyses for proportional hazards confirmed that there was a significantly greater risk of suicide among patients with cerebral contusions or traumatic intracranial haemorrhages than among patients with concussion or cranial fractures (hazard ratios=1.42 and 1.50 respectively). There was, however, no evidence of a specific risk period for suicide after injury.

CONCLUSION The increased risk of suicide among patients who had a mild traumatic brain injury may result from concomitant risk factors such as psychiatric conditions and psychosocial disadvantage. The greater risk among the more serious cases implicates additionally the physical, psychological, and social consequences of the injuries as directly contributing to the suicides.

  • traumatic brain injury
  • concussion
  • suicide
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