Infection Hospitalization Could Increase Suicide Risk

Pharmacy Times, February 2017 Infectious Disease, Volume 83, Issue 2

Patients who are hospitalized for an infectious disease may face a heightened risk of committing suicide compared with those without infection, according to the results of a recent study.

Patients who are hospitalized for an infectious disease may face a heightened risk of committing suicide compared with those without infection, according to the results of a recent study. The study results, published in JAMA Psychiatry, examined data on 7.2 million individuals 15 years and older who lived in Denmark from 1980 through 2011. Of the participants, 809,384 (11.2%) were hospitalized for infection and 32,683 committed suicide during follow-up.

The research team found that 7892 (24.1%) of individuals who committed suicide had previously been diagnosed with 1 or more infectious diseases during hospitalization. Based on their analysis, the researchers determined that patients who were hospitalized with infection experienced 42% higher risk of suicide death than those without infection, with this risk increasing alongside the number of infections and the length of treatment. Additionally, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis were associated with a particularly high risk of suicide death.

“Our findings indicate that infections may have a relevant role in the pathophysiological mechanisms of suicidal behavior,” the study authors concluded. “Provided that the association between infection and the risk of death by suicide was causal, identification and early treatment of infections could be explored as a public health measure for prevention of suicide.”

Acknowledging that their findings do not conclusively prove causality, the study authors noted that further research is needed to establish the mechanisms by which human behavior and suicide risk are influenced by infection.