Patients with epilepsy have an increased risk of suicide

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The connection between epilepsy and suicide has been validated by many studies. However, many of these studies have left readers with uncertainly about findings due to their power limitations and design. Christensen and colleagues, however, have recently published a nicely powered study that confirms the findings of many of these previous smaller studies.

According to Christensen, patients with epilepsy have three times the risk for suicide than controls. Even more alarming, patients with both epilepsy and affective disorder or schizophrenia have 20 times more risk for suicide than controls. The risk for suicide is even greater during the first 6-months after diagnosis of epilepsy and or mental illness, according to the study. The following is an excerpt of an article from Journal Watch that reviews the study:

Numerous studies have shown an increased rate of suicide among patients with epilepsy, yet the design and power limitations of those studies have led to uncertainty as to the magnitude and nature of this risk. Christensen and colleagues used the Danish Cause of Death Registry and several other databases to determine the relative risk for suicide among people with epilepsy. They examined approximately 21,000 suicide cases and more than 400,000 age- and sex-matched controls in the general population.

The relative risk for suicide was three times higher among people with epilepsy than among controls, and it remained significantly (two times) higher even after controlling for demographic and socioeconomic factors and history of psychiatric disease. Notably, the risk for suicide was greatest during the first 6 months after epilepsy was diagnosed and among those with epilepsy and comorbid psychiatric illness (affective disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, chronic alcohol use, and others). The risk for suicide among those with epilepsy and either affective disorder or schizophrenia was more than 20 times the risk among controls; after controlling for demographic and socioeconomic factors, the risk among those with epilepsy and schizophrenia was 13 times higher than the risk in controls. Compared with controls, the increase in suicide risk after age 60 was less pronounced in people with epilepsy.

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