Stroke patients at higher risk for suicide attempts

January 11, 2018, American Heart Association
Stroke patients at higher risk for suicide attempts
Credit: American Heart Association

Strokes can be disabling, leaving survivors to confront many challenges during their recovery. Now, a new Asian study shows survivors are at higher risk for attempting suicide, especially if they are younger, less affluent and have a physically demanding job.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 2 million people in Taiwan between 2000 and 2010. They found that by the end of 2011, stroke patients were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as people who had not had a stroke.

The findings, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, mirror results of similar studies on Western populations.

The new study is significant because it is one of the few that focuses on the connection between stroke and suicide attempts in Asia, according to neurologist Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, professor and chairman of neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina, who was not involved in the study.

The study found that 1,925 people—or 0.13 percent—of the more than 1.4 million Taiwanese who didn't have a stroke attempted suicide. That compared to suicide attempts among 2,140, or 0.3 percent, of 713,690 stroke patients.

Ovbiagele noted, however, that one of the study's weaknesses is that it doesn't discuss the severity of the strokes.

Among stroke patients overall, were more common among people who had their stroke before age 50, manual laborers and those earning a low income.

The high cost of recovering from a stroke may explain why low-income workers would be more likely to attempt , according to the study.

"Health-related rehabilitation services are often insufficiently funded and provided in many respects, particularly in Asian and developing societies," the researchers wrote.

Ovbiagele said many stroke patients have lingering physical or psychological effects, which might especially depress a manual laborer who couldn't continue to work or a younger person facing a lifetime of limitations.

Doctors also aren't sure whether the stroke itself sets off a physical reaction that can lead patients to become depressed or suicidal.

"The biological mechanism by which individuals with stroke become more prone to depression and suicidal ideation is unclear, but likely involves changes in neurotransmitters, cortisol levels and ," said Dr. Amytis Towfighi, a vascular neurologist at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine.

"Post-stroke depression is complex and likely involves a combination of biological and psychosocial factors," said Towfighi, who chaired a committee that wrote last year's scientific statement from the American Heart Association about depression after stroke. She was not involved in the new study.

Regardless of the factors at play, post-stroke depression is vastly underdiagnosed, said Ovbiagele, who also coauthored the AHA statement and is chair of the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2018 program committee.

"The patient or caregiver often has to complain about it or the doctor has to routinely look out for it," he said. "Since a substantial number of subsequently develop , ideally this would be an important issue for clinicians to think of and address in appropriate after a ."

Explore further: Almost eight percent of US stroke survivors may have suicidal thoughts

More information: Tomor Harnod et al. Risk of Suicide Attempt in Poststroke Patients: A Population‐Based Cohort Study, Journal of the American Heart Association (2018). DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.117.007830

Related Stories

Almost eight percent of US stroke survivors may have suicidal thoughts

February 7, 2013
Nearly one in 12 American stroke survivors may have contemplated suicide or wished themselves dead, according to a study presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2013.

Depressed stroke survivors may face triple the risk of death

January 11, 2013
People who are depressed after a stroke may have a tripled risk of dying early and four times the risk of death from stroke than people who have not experienced a stroke or depression, according to a study released today ...

Strokes can double the likelihood of attempted suicide

April 8, 2015
Stroke patients can be up to twice as likely to commit suicide compared with the rest of the population, and the risk of attempted suicide is highest within the first two years after a stroke. These are the findings of a ...

Study examines risk, risk factors for depression after stroke

September 7, 2016
During the first three months after stroke, the risk for depression was eight times higher than in a reference population of people without stroke, according to an article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

Evidence linking marijuana and risk of stroke grows

February 20, 2015
Smoking marijuana may increase your chances of having a stroke, according to a review of 34 different studies published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.

Pre-stroke risk factors influence long-term future stroke, dementia risk

July 14, 2016
If you had heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, before your first stroke, your risk of suffering subsequent strokes and dementia up to five years later may be higher, according to new research in the American ...

Recommended for you

Drug now in clinical trials for Parkinson's strengthens heart contractions in animals

July 20, 2018
A drug currently in clinical trials for treating symptoms of Parkinson's disease may someday have value for treating heart failure, according to results of early animal studies by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers.

'Good cholesterol' may not always be good

July 19, 2018
Postmenopausal factors may have an impact on the heart-protective qualities of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) - also known as 'good cholesterol' - according to a study led by researchers in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

Using adrenaline in cardiac arrests results in less than 1 percent more people leaving hospital alive

July 18, 2018
A clinical trial of the use of adrenaline in cardiac arrests has found that its use results in less than 1% more people leaving hospital alive—but almost doubles the risk of severe brain damage for survivors of cardiac ...

Omega 3 supplements have little or no heart or vascular health benefit: review

July 17, 2018
New evidence published today shows there is little or no effect of omega 3 supplements on our risk of experiencing heart disease, stroke or death.

Researchers discover new genes associated with heart function

July 17, 2018
A new study from an international research team, led by Dr. Yalda Jamshidi at St George's, University of London, has identified new genes associated with heart function and development.

Southern diet could be deadly for people with heart disease

July 12, 2018
People with a history of heart disease who eat a traditional Southern diet are more likely to die than those who follow a Mediterranean dietary pattern, according to new research.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.