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1 in 12 Stroke Survivors Think about Committing Suicide

Update Date: Feb 08, 2013 07:33 AM EST

Nearly 8 percent of all stroke survivors, or one in every 12 persons who has had a stroke wishes to commit suicide, says a new study. Researchers found that even though people dealing with other conditions like heart disease and cancer thought about suicide, it was people dealing with post-stroke depression that had the highest rates of suicide contemplation.

In the latest study based on a nationally representative sample, researchers found that while 6.2 percent of heart attack survivors, 5.2 percent of diabetes patients and 4.1 percent of cancer patients wished to end their lives, 7.8 percent of stroke survivors thought of suicide. Data for the study came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) conducted from 2005 to 2010.

There are about 795,000 people in the U.S. who have a stroke in a given year and a whopping 610,000 are first-time strokes. The condition is not only the leading cause of death in the country, but also one of the leading causes of disability in older American citizens, according to data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About a third of the 7 million stroke survivors suffer from depression, say American Stroke Association statistics.

"Given the high prevalence of suicidal thoughts among stroke survivors, perhaps regular screening for suicidal ideation, in addition to depression, is warranted," said Amytis Towfighi, M.D., lead author of the study from University of Southern California in Los Angeles in a news release.

Study results showed that stroke survivors who had higher depression levels, higher body mass index, and lower education levels were more likely to think about suicide than others. Also, those who were single, young and were women had a higher level of suicide contemplation. In the present study group, about 17 percent of the patients were diagnosed with depression.

"Post-stroke depression can be associated with poorer functional outcomes, worse quality of life, higher mortality, low psychological well-being, suicidal ideation and suicide," Towfighi said in the news release.

The study was presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2013.

 A previous study published in Journal of Internal Medicine had found that patients admitted in hospitals were at a higher risk of contemplating suicide. 

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