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Association Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Risk of Suicide

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Importance: Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can have serious long-term consequences, including psychiatric disorders. However, few studies have assessed the association between TBI and risk of suicide.

Objective: To examine the association between TBI and subsequent suicide.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Retrospective cohort study using nationwide registers covering 7 418 391 individuals (≥10 years) living in Denmark (1980-2014) with 164 265 624 person-years' follow-up; 567 823 (7.6%) had a medical contact for TBI. Data were analyzed using Poisson regression adjusted for relevant covariates, including fractures not involving the skull, psychiatric diagnoses, and deliberate self-harm.

Exposure: Medical contacts for TBI recorded in the National Patient Register (1977-2014) as mild TBI (concussion), skull fracture without documented TBI, and severe TBI (head injuries with evidence of structural brain injury).

Main Outcomes and Measures: Suicide recorded in the Danish Cause of Death register until December 31, 2014.

Results: Of 34 529 individuals who died by suicide (mean age, 52 years [SD, 18 years]; 32.7% women; absolute rate 21 per 100 000 person-years [95% CI, 20.8-21.2]), 3536 (10.2%) had medical contact: 2701 with mild TBI, 174 with skull fracture without documented TBI, and 661 with severe TBI. The absolute suicide rate was 41 per 100 000 person-years (95% CI, 39.2-41.9) among those with TBI vs 20 per 100 000 person-years (95% CI, 19.7-20.1) among those with no diagnosis of TBI. The adjusted incidence rate ratio (IRR) was 1.90 (95% CI, 1.83-1.97). Compared with those without TBI, severe TBI (absolute rate, 50.8 per 100 000 person-years; 95% CI, 46.9-54.6) was associated with an IRR of 2.38 (95% CI, 2.20-2.58), whereas mild TBI (absolute rate, 38.6 per 100 000 person-years; 95% CI, 37.1-40.0), and skull fracture without documented TBI (absolute rate, 42.4 per 100 000 person-years; 95% CI, 36.1-48.7) had an IRR of 1.81 (95% CI, 1.74-1.88) and an IRR of 2.01 (95% CI, 1.73-2.34), respectively. Suicide risk was associated with number of medical contacts for TBI compared with those with no TBI contacts: 1 TBI contact, absolute rate, 34.3 per 100 000 person-years (95% CI, 33.0-35.7; IRR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.68-1.83); 2 TBI contacts, absolute rate, 59.8 per 100 000 person-years (95% CI, 55.1-64.6; IRR, 2.31; 95% CI, 2.13-2.51); and 3 or more TBI contacts, absolute rate, 90.6 per 100 000 person-years (95% CI, 82.3-98.9; IRR, 2.59; 95% CI, 2.35-2.85; all P < .001 for the IRR's). Compared with the general population, temporal proximity since the last medical contact for TBI was associated with risk of suicide (P<.001), with an IRR of 3.67 (95% CI, 3.33-4.04) within the first 6 months and an incidence IRR of 1.76 (95% CI, 1.67-1.86) after 7 years.

Conclusions and Relevance: In this nationwide registry-based retrospective cohort study individuals with medical contact for TBI, compared with the general population without TBI, had increased suicide risk.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association
Volume320
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)580-588
Number of pages9
ISSN0002-9955
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2018

    Research areas

  • Adult, Aged, Bias, Brain Injuries, Traumatic/complications, Confounding Factors (Epidemiology), Denmark/epidemiology, Female, Health Services/statistics & numerical data, Humans, Incidence, Male, Middle Aged, Registries, Retrospective Studies, Risk, Skull Fractures/complications, Suicide/statistics & numerical data

ID: 56472466