Risks of Suicide Assessed in Cases of Serious Infection

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Risk associated with hospitalization for infection accounted for 10.1% of suicides studied
Risk associated with hospitalization for infection accounted for 10.1% of suicides studied

HealthDay News — Patients hospitalized for serious infections may face an increased risk of suicide, according to research published online August 10 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Researchers used Denmark's system of national registries to review data on over seven million people who lived in the country between 1980 and 2011. During that time, 809,384 – or 11.2% – were hospitalized for an infection, including HIV, hepatitis, or infections of the lungs, digestive system, skin, or blood.

Based on death certificates, 32,683 individuals died of suicide during the 32-year study period. Almost one-quarter of them (24.1%) had ever been hospitalized for an infection. The team found that individuals hospitalized for most kinds of infection had an elevated rate of suicide – pregnancy-related infections being the only exception. The more infections patients had contracted, or the longer their treatment course, the higher their suicide risk. About 10% of suicides could be attributed to severe infections.

"There are many potential mechanisms that might link infections to death by suicide," lead researcher Helene Lund-Sorensen, BM, from the Mental Health Center Copenhagen in Denmark, told HealthDay. She said her team tried to account for as many as possible – including whether patients with infections had additional health conditions, were lower-income, or had ever been diagnosed with depression or substance abuse. Even then, there was a statistical link between infections and increased suicide risk. That, according to Lund-Sorensen, implies that psychiatric disorders "may only explain parts of the association."

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