Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Concussions May Raise Risk of Suicide in High School Students

Having a concussion within the past year may raise the risk of suicidal ideation and behavior in high school students, according to a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Dale S. Mantey, M.P.A., of the University of Texas School of Public Health and colleagues used data from more than 13,000 respondents in grades 9 through 12 who participated in the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBSS). The national YRBSS is conducted every two years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in the United States.

For this study, researchers analyzed the respondents’ answers to the question “During the past 12 months, how many times did you have a concussion from playing a sport or being physically active?” They then compared those answers with answers to questions designed to determine whether over the past 12 months the students had depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, planned suicide attempts, attempted suicide, and/or were treated by a doctor or nurse for an injury, poisoning, or overdose following a suicide attempt.

Overall, 15% of the respondents reported a sports-related concussion in the previous 12 months. Compared with their peers who did not report concussions, these participants were 20% more likely to have experienced depressive symptoms, 25% more likely to have had suicidal ideation, and 60% more likely to have attempted suicide. They were also more than twice as likely to have been treated by a doctor or nurse for a suicide attempt. The risk of a suicide attempt and a suicide attempt treated by a doctor or nurse were more pronounced in boys than girls: Boys with a history of concussion were twice as likely to have a suicide attempt and more than three times as likely to have been treated by a doctor or nurse for a suicide attempt than boys with no history of concussion.

“Though further research is needed to explore the relationship observed in this study, [the] findings suggest a critical need for expanded education, awareness, monitoring, and treatment of sports-related concussions,” the researchers wrote. “[S]uicide awareness, education, and prevention efforts should incorporate history of sports-related concussions (or other traumatic brain injuries) as risk factors for interventional programs. Furthermore, organized physical activities (e.g., sports) should ensure proper monitoring of suicidal risk factors (e.g., changes in mood) following the diagnosis of concussion in youth participants.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “New Analysis Suggests There Is No Such Thing as Harmless Head Contact in Football.”

(Image: iStock/skynesher)

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