Association Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Risk of Suicide

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Abstract

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.

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