Study: Many stroke survivors think about suicide


One in 12 stroke survivors thought about suicide or that they would be better off dead, a new US survey reveals. That’s more than those with other health problems such as heart attacks or cancer, and it suggests that depression after stroke is more serious than many had realized.

“It was surprising” and shows a need for more treatment, said the study’s leader, Dr. Amytis Towfighi of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “When patients have their depression treated they’re more motivated to take their medication, do therapy and live a full life.”

The study was discussed Thursday at an American Stroke Association conference.

More than 6 million Americans have had a stroke; about 800,000 occur each year in the US. Studies suggest that up to a third of stroke survivors develop depression, but few have looked at suicidal thoughts.

“It’s not necessarily active suicidal thoughts with a plan, but perhaps wishing you hadn’t survived the event,” Towfighi explained.

She used the National Health and Nutrition Surveys, a government project that gives checkups and questionnaires to a representative sample of adults. More than 17,000 people were surveyed from 2005 through 2010.

They included 678 who had suffered a stroke; 758 who had had a heart attack; 1,242 with cancer and 1,991 with diabetes. Researchers don’t know how long ago these problems occurred of if people were still being treated for them.

They were asked a question that many studies use to gauge suicidal thinking: “Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by thoughts that you would be better off dead, or of hurting yourself?”

About 8 percent of stroke survivors reported such thoughts, compared to 6 percent of heart attack survivors, 5 percent of those with diabetes and 4 percent with cancer.

Suicidal thoughts were more likely in people who scored high on depression tests, were younger, overweight, less educated, poor, female or unmarried.

Depression may develop partly because strokes damage the very thing that controls mood—the brain, said a neurologist with no role in the study, Dr. Brian Silver of Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital.

“It’s not necessarily the reaction to the disease … it’s also the disease itself that is causing the depression,” by releasing harmful chemicals that can trigger it, he said.

Suicidal thinking is a well-known problem, but this study “puts a number on it” and shows the need to watch for and treat it, Silver said.

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Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Rene V

    strokes and heart attacks are not really “brain” problems or “heart” problems per se. actually, these are clotting problems coupled with fat problems. if you dig up an old house and take out a piece of pipe, oftentimes we see the pipe’s diameter so constricted with so much “gunk”. this gunk, applied to the human body, is caused by fat (most often) and this narrowing disturbs  platelets (our own bleeding protection) to attract each other and cause further blockage. a blood vessel gets plugged then results in a heart attack or a brain attack (stroke) depending on what the blood vessel supplies. aspirin, plavix or even warfarin (rat poison) is used to control platelets to prevent further clotting. still, the best thing is prevention (diet to prevent the gunk from entering the body, exercise to burn parts of the gunk and medication to do both). ask your provider for a tailored treatment.

  • iping2sison

    This article is misplaced. It should be under Science and Health.

  • alfred sanchez

     this is indeed true that’s why my dad neuro doctor keeps on asking if he is happy, depressed or who are the people around him whenever we follow up after my dad stroke

  • Simon Ward

    (a) What an incredibly insensitive and stupid question to ask a stroke sufferer! Do you think you’d be better off dead?????

    (b) What an incredibly unremarkable finding – yes, some of them do consider suicide.

    The fact that a few percentage points more of stroke sufferers consider suicide than, say, cancer victims is of no value whatsoever.

  • kurakut

    is there a drug or medicine for human “blood thinners?” what’s available are RAT POISON. PLAVIX OR CLOPIDOGREL CAUSES gastro bleeding.

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