Epilepsy Patients Have Increased Risk of Suicide

Epileptics are twice as likely to commit suicide as controls; 13 times more likely with psychiatric history

FRIDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who have epilepsy and a history of psychiatric disease are 13 times more likely to commit suicide than control individuals with neither epilepsy nor psychiatric disease, according to a report published online July 3 in The Lancet Neurology. Women and recently diagnosed patients may be at particularly high risk.

Jakob Christensen, M.D., of Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark, and colleagues compared the rate of epilepsy among 21,169 cases of suicide and 423,128 control deaths that were recorded between 1981 and 1997 in the Danish Cause of Death Register.

Overall, 2.32 percent of suicides had a history of epilepsy, compared to 0.74 percent of controls, corresponding to a relative risk of 3.17. Those with epilepsy but no history of psychiatric disorders had a twofold higher risk of suicide than controls after adjusting for socioeconomic factors; those with a history of psychiatric disorders had relative risks of 12.5 (without epilepsy) and 13.7 (with epilepsy).

Women were at greater risk than men (relative risk of suicide for those with epilepsy and a history of psychiatric disease, 23.6 versus 9.86), as were those whose epilepsy was diagnosed in the previous six months.

"We believe that our findings can be generalized to countries with a similar socioeconomic environment, cultural setting, and health care system to Denmark," the authors write.

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