Concussion linked to suicide risk factors

January 6, 2020
Melissa Jenco-American Academy of Pediatrics News

Teens who recently experienced a concussion were more likely to report several suicide risk factors, a study found.

Previous studies have linked concussions to mood disorders, so researchers set out to look at whether they also are linked to additional risk factors for suicide, the third leading cause of death among teens.

Using survey data from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which included a nationally representative group of high school students, researchers found 15% reported a concussion in the past 12 months. Among all students, 32% felt sad/hopeless, 18% experienced suicidal ideations, 14% made a suicide plan, 7% attempted suicide and 2.3% were treated by a medical professional due to a suicide attempt. Those who were sexual minorities or experienced bullying were more likely to experience these risk factors, and the team adjusted for these factors when analyzing their findings.

That analysis showed teens who had experienced a concussion in the past 12 months were more likely to report a suicide attempt treated by a doctor or nurse (adjusted odds ratio 2.35), suicide attempt (1.6), suicidal ideations (1.25) and feeling sad/hopeless (1.2). Concussion was not significantly linked to making a suicide plan.

A breakdown by sex showed when teens had a history of concussion, boys were more likely to report suicide attempts overall and attempts treated by a doctor or nurse. Girls were more likely to experience all five risk factors.

“Suicide awareness, education and prevention efforts should incorporate history of sports-related concussions (or other traumatic brain injuries) as risk factors into interventional programs,” authors recommended. “Furthermore, organized physical activities (e.g. sports) should ensure proper monitoring of suicidal risk factors (e.g. changes in mood) following the diagnosis of concussion in youth participants.”

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