Traumatic brain injuries linked to higher risk of suicide

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major public health problem, and a study earlier this year linked it to another major public health problem – suicide.

Citing 2010 statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 2.5 million Americans sustained a TBI in 2010 and said TBI is a contributing factor to 30 percent of all injury-related deaths.

The CDC also reported:

  • Among children and the elderly, falls are the leading cause of TBI
  • Motor vehicle accidents lead to the largest percentage of TBI-related deaths
  • The elderly have the highest rate of TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths

For those who are hospitalized for TBI, 43 percent have a related disability, including attention and memory problems, impaired coordination and balance, impaired vision or hearing, and a range of emotional problems including depression, anxiety, aggression and personality changes.

Higher risk of suicide

A Danish study released earlier this year found that 10.2 percent of suicide victims between 1980 and 2014 had suffered from TBI or a skull fracture without TBI. That risk rose in those with severe TBI.

The study noted that the highest risk of suicide among those with TBI occurred during the first six months following discharge from the hospital.

The study corroborated a previous study in Sweden which found a three-fold increase in suicides among patients with TBI.

Helping to prevent TBI

The CDC recommends these steps to help prevent TBI:

  • Use a car seat, booster seat or seat belt for yourself, your child and everyone in the car
  • Wear a helmet when riding a bike, playing contact sports, riding a horse or skiing and snowboarding
  • Remove trip hazards
  • Install nonslip mats and grab bars in the bathroom
  • Install handrails on both sides of the stairs
  • Maintain lower body strength and balance with exercise
  • Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs for young children
  • Make sure your play area uses shock-absorbing material like mulch or sand.

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons also offers some tips for preventing TBI, including discarding sports equipment or protective gear that is damaged, don’t participate in sports if you are ill or very tired and don’t dive into water less than 12 feet deep or in an above-ground pool,