Much emphasis is often placed on the physical rehabilitation that is undertaken after stroke, however results of a new study indicate that more attention to mental health after stroke may be necessary to avoid further adverse outcomes.
Researchers from Umeå University in Sweden found that stroke patients are twice as likely to commit suicide, especially within the first two years after stroke, compared to those who have not had a stroke.
The findings, published in Neurology, are the result of analysis of registry data on 220,336 stroke patients, 1,217 of which attempted suicide during the study period, and 260 which completed it. The risk was fivefold for stroke patients under the age of 55, and 37% higher for stroke patients with a low level of education or income compared to university-educated patients. Those who lived alone had a 72% increased risk of attempting suicide.
Risk was also especially elevated for men, those with strokes with severe consequences, and those with depression after their stroke. Interestingly, though, researchers found that patients born outside of Europe had half the risk of committing suicide compared to those born in Europe, perhaps reflecting differences in cultural and religious beliefs.
“There is a clear risk that signs of mental illness and the risk of suicide attempts among people who have suffered a stroke is underestimated in health care services. In this study, we can clarify some of the risk factors for suicide attempts among people who have suffered a stroke. With in-depth knowledge of this vulnerable patient group, there is also potential for identification of the patients who are at higher risk of attempting suicide and even deploying preventive measures,” said Eva-Lotta Glader, of the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, in a press release.
The results support a call for more psychological and social support for stroke patients, especially during the earliest recovery periods, in an attempt to identify those patients that are at a high risk of attempted suicide.