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Epilepsy means three times higher risk of committing suicide

People with epilepsy are three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, conclude authors of an Article published early online and in the August edition of The Lancet Neurology.

The study also found that women with epilepsy were more likely to commit suicide than men with the condition, and people diagnosed with epilepsy in the previous six months were at an even higher risk of committing suicide.

Dr Jakob Christensen and Dr Per Sidenius, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark and colleagues studied 21,169 cases of suicide taken from the Cause of Death Register in Denmark between 1981 and 1997, and also 423,128 controls matched by sex, birth year, and calendar date.

They found that 492 of the suicide cases (2.32%) had epilepsy, compared with 3140 of the controls (0.74%), corresponding to a three-times higher risk for people with epilepsy. After exclusion of those with a history of psychiatric disease and adjusting for socioeconomic factors (SEFs), the risk of committing suicide was twice as high for those with epilepsy. SEFs include marital status, job status, annual income, place of residence, and sickness absence from work. People with both epilepsy and comorbid psychiatric disease were nearly 14 times more likely to commit suicide, adjusting for SEFs, than those with neither condition.

Further, they found that in individuals with epilepsy, those who had been diagnosed six months ago or less were more than five times more likely to commit suicide, while those diagnosed less than six months ago and with comorbid psychiatric disease were 29 times more likely to take their own lives.

And although the trend in the general population is for incidence of suicide to increase with age, the study found that the risk of suicide after epilepsy decreased with age.

The authors conclude: “Individuals with epilepsy have a higher risk of suicide, even if co-existing psychiatric disease, demographic differences, and socioeconomic factors are taken into account. Our study identifies people with newly diagnosed epilepsy as a vulnerable group that require special attention.”

Tony Kirby | alfa
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