Scary news: according to a new Canadian study, adults who suffer a concussion at some point are three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
For those adults who participate in sports, even recreationally, or are have a job in a workplace that’s more prone to physical accidents than normal, this is alarming news.
According to Reuters.com, this particular study focused on 230, 000 adults in the general population in the province of Ontario who had been diagnosed with a concussion, but hadn’t been found to be hurt enough to require hospitalization.
Researchers followed the participants for ten years, from 1992 to 2012. The study found that, over an average follow-up period of nine years, 667 of these people committed suicide, resulting in a rate of 31 suicides per 100,000 people per year.
In Canada, there is an average of about nine suicides per 100,000 people annually, in the general population. So, the rate of suicide in the group of people who had suffered concussions was found to be over three times higher than the regular, general suicide rate for Canadians.
Why the drastic difference in numbers? A few factors come into play.
“…concussion appears to increase risk for sleep disturbance and depression, and can affect decision-making processes,” said Craig J. Bryan of the University of Utah department of psychology in Salt Lake City, who was not part of the new study, to Reuters.com. “All of these are risk factors for suicide in their own right.”
Furthermore, Bryan goes on to point out, those people who succumb to a concussion as an adult might have a predisposition for suicide. They might have a lifestyle that doesn’t allow them to recover properly after an injury to the head, which can do lasting damage to the brain.
“For example, concussions are much more likely to be experienced by individuals who drink alcohol a lot or get into fights,” said Bryan. “Alcohol use and aggression are also risk factors for suicide.”
While the vast majority of people who suffer from a concussion don’t commit suicide, millions of individuals do suffer from a concussive head injury each year in the U.S with up to 10% requiring hospitalization.
So, if the stats are so daunting, should we be taking extra measures to protect ourselves?
I once knew toddler who wore a bicycle helmet to bed for a week because someone had told her that it could protect her head from falls. I’m going to guess that it was a little uncomfortable. Admittedly though, I haven’t tried it.
I’ll say this. In general, if I’m going to take up tackle football and put myself in the line of duty every other Saturday, I might be more concerned, but as is, I think I’m ok to consider myself in the clear. Considering I sit at a desk for long periods almost every day, interspersed with some walking and occasional tobboganing, I’m likely generally safe from massive head injuries, and more pointedly, from suicide as a long term result from them.
But everyone needs to be the judge of their own lives. If you’re not sure, ask the friendly guy next to you on the bus.
Unless he looks confused, dizzy, fatigued and has slurred speech but doesn’t smell of whiskey- in that case… get him to the nearest hospital.