Risk Factors of Suicide for Patients with Chronic Illness

July 03, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team

Patients without a history of mental illness but those patients with chronic illness are at a greater risk of suicide.  In the United States, suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of death. In the last 15 years, suicide rates have risen alarmingly by 24%. In a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers examine how illness can increase suicide risk.

Risk factors of suicide?

So, what are the risk factors of suicide? Researchers have discovered 17 physical conditions that could be the risk factors for suicide such as diabetes, heart disease, and back pain which were linked to increased suicide risk. Sleep disorders and HIV/AIDS were associated with a two-fold increase in suicide risk. Traumatic brain injury was nine times as likely to cause a suicide death.

In recent years, the suicide rate has risen across age groups and genders. One of the major factors of suicide has been associated with mental illness. This means that the healthcare system is missing out on patients who are at heightened risk for self-harm or who could cause harm to themselves which could lead to suicide. Researchers have examined the link between physical illnesses and suicide to try and gain an understanding of the risk factors of suicide. Rates of suicide are on the rise and novel interventions might be possible.

Who are at risk for suicide?

Data shows people with a wide range of physical conditions in the United States, said lead investigator Brian K. Ahmedani Ph.D., LMSW. He is Director of Psychiatry Research and Behavioral Health Services Research Scientist at the Center for Health Policy & Health Services Research of the Henry Ford Health System. These data are important as healthcare systems strive to provide the best possible care for their patients. They also support the need for the prevention of suicide among people with various physical conditions.

In this study, 2,674 suicides between 2000 and 2013, along with 2,67,400 controls, were matched by year and location. This was done in eight Mental Health Research Network health systems. 17 of the 19 medical conditions examined were associated with an increased risk factor of suicide: asthma, backache, brain injury (including stroke), cancer, congestive cardiac failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, epilepsy, and HIV/AIDS.

What is a chronic illness?

Certain chronic illness conditions have a stronger correlation than others in patients with traumatic brain injuries who were nine times more likely to commit suicide. Those with HIV/AIDS and sleep disorders were also at a higher risk.

Is depression chronic illness?

Multiple physical conditions can also increase the risk of suicide like during the pandemic certain individuals react to adverse circumstances differently. Individuals who face anxiety and which can be triggered under certain circumstances, can attempt suicide, or suicide itself is the result.

Chronic illness can trigger what’s known as clinically significant depression, itself a potentially serious but treatable illness.

Dr. Ahmedani reported that “Suicide risk is prevalent across many physical conditions. However, prevention efforts are particularly important for those with traumatic brain injuries, who have nearly nine-fold increased odds of suicide, even when adjusting for possible confounders.” This is the first multisite, large study that has been conducted in the U.S. general population to demonstrate a large and significant relationship between suicide and brain injury.

What are the risk factors of suicide?

The risk factors of suicide can be prevented with interventions in primary and specialty care.  80% of people who commit suicide visit a doctor in the year prior to their death. 50% of them go within four weeks after they die. As most of these patients don’t have a mental health diagnosis, it is possible to miss many individuals who are at risk if suicide prevention efforts are limited to the standard behavioral healthcare settings.

Dr. Ahmedani also concluded that “Many conditions such as back pain and sleep disorders are also associated with suicide risks and are often diagnosed. This makes patients with these conditions the primary targets for suicide preventive measures.” The fact that suicide is associated with nearly all chronic physical conditions makes it necessary to increase suicide prevention efforts in all healthcare areas.

Story Source:

Materials provided by ElsevierNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Brian K. Ahmedani, Edward L. Peterson, Yong Hu, Rebecca C. Rossom, Frances Lynch, Christine Y. Lu, Beth E. Waitzfelder, Ashli A. Owen-Smith, Samuel Hubley, Deepak Prabhakar, L. Keoki Williams, Nicole Zeld, Elizabeth Mutter, Arne Beck, Dennis Tolsma, Gregory E. Simon. Major Physical Health Conditions and Risk of SuicideAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.04.001

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. “Burden of physical health conditions linked to increased risk of suicide: Chronic illness, even in patients with no record of mental health problems, raises suicide risk substantially.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170612094032.htm>.

Help is here:

Toll-Free Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline Kiran (1800-599-0019)

Name of the Organisation: Aasra

AASRA volunteers conduct workshops on different levels with high-risk target groups eg school, college students, highly-stressed employees of call centres, financial institutions, multinationals etc. AASRA volunteers have Outreach programs to reach out to the multitudes who may choose to end their lives because of chronic suffering or terminal illness.

Contact: email:  aasrahelpline@yahoo.com

Telephone: 91-9820466726

Name of the Organisation: Vandrevala Foundation

Vandrevala Foundation is a non-profit that partners with organizations to help communities thrive by providing education and healthcare. Vandrevala Foundation launched a mental health helpline in India in 2009 to offer free psychological counselling and crisis mediation to anyone who is experiencing distress due to depression, trauma, mood disorders, chronic illness, and relationship conflict.

Website:  http://www.vandrevalafoundation.com

Contact: Email: info@vandrevalafoundation.com

Telephone: +91 9999 666 555

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