Stroke survivors are far more likely than heart attack, cancer, or diabetes patients to report suicidal thoughts or wish they were dead.
That’s the key finding of new research by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles that found nearly one in 12 stroke patients contemplate suicide. The study, which was presented at a meeting of the the American Stroke Association this week, suggests rates of depression may be much higher among stroke patients than previously believed.
"Given the high prevalence of suicidal thoughts among stroke survivors, perhaps regular screening for suicidal ideation, in addition to depression, is warranted," said lead researcher Amytis Towfighi, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical neurology and chair of the Department of Neurology at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.
The study is based on an analysis of information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, a long-running series of polls that provide a snapshot of Americans’ overall health, conducted from 2005 to 2010. During that time, an estimated 6.2 million U.S. adults were stroke survivors.
The results showed 7.8 percent of stroke survivors reported suicidal thoughts, compared to 6.2 percent of heart attack survivors, 5.2 percent of diabetes patients, and 4.1 percent of cancer patients.
An estimated 7 million U.S. adults have had a stroke, a third of whom develop depression. But the new study is among the first to assess suicidal thoughts in stroke patients, Towfighi said.
"Post-stroke depression can be associated with poorer functional outcomes, worse quality of life, higher mortality, low psychological well-being, suicidal ideation, and suicide," Towfighi said.
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