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.
A Swedish study involving 220,336 patients who had a stroke between 2001 and 2012.
During the follow-up period, 1,217 suicide attempts were registered in the patient group, 260 of which died as a result of the attempt.
“The study shows the need of both psychological and social support, as well as concrete measures to prevent suicide attempts, in people who have had a stroke”
The incidence of suicide among those who have had a stroke was double that of the general population, and among patients under 55 years of age, the risk increase is fivefold, said the study authors.
Stroke patients with a low level of education or income had a 37% higher risk of attempting suicide, compared with those with a university education, whereas the corresponding figure for patients who lived alone was 72%.
Stroke patients born outside of Europe, on the other hand, ran half the risk of committing suicide, compared with people born in Europe – possibly because of cultural and religious factors.
Other risk factors for suicide attempts identified in the study were being male, or having had a stroke with severe consequences and experiencing post-stroke depression.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, also showed that the risk of attempted suicide was highest during the first two years after a stroke.
“The study shows the need of both psychological and social support, as well as concrete measures to prevent suicide attempts, in people who have had a stroke,” said study author Marie Eriksson, senior lecturer in public health and clinical medicine at Umeå University.
“The initiatives must also be put in place at an early stage as the risk of attempted suicide is greatest up to two years after a stroke,” she said.