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People Hospitalized For Infection At Increased Risk Of Dying From Suicide

Figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that more than 800,000 people die due to suicide per year. Now, a new study has revealed a possible predictor of suicide death.

Individuals who are hospitalized with infection may have increased risk for suicide death, findings of a new study published in the JAMA Psychiatry suggest. Researchers also found that the highest risk of suicide was in those with HIV or AIDS and hepatitis.

Helene Lund-Sørensen, from the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, and colleagues looked at the link between infectious diseases and the risk of suicide death using the data of more than 7.2 million individuals aged 15 years or older.

Of the subjects, 11.2 percent were hospitalized with infection, such as HIV, hepatitis or infection of the digestive system, skin, blood or lungs. Over the course of the study, nearly 32,700 of these people died of suicide and nearly a quarter of these had been hospitalized for infection.

The results suggest that those who were hospitalized with infection have 42 percent increased risk for suicide death than those without infection. The researchers also found that the risk of suicide is higher in those with more infections and who went through longer treatment.

While those who stayed in the hospital for four days or fewer had 42 percent increased risk of committing suicide, the risk increased to 138 percent in those who stayed in the hospital for more than 94 days.

Those with single infection, on the other hand, had 34 percent increased risk for suicide death, but those with seven or more infections were found to have nearly three times the risk for death by suicide compared with those who do not have infection.

Based on their findings, the researchers said that one in 10 suicides may possibly be prevented if infections were completely eliminated, provided that the link between infection and suicide is causal.

The researchers acknowledged that the study they have conducted does not show conclusive causal relationship, but the findings support the association of risk for suicidal behavior with infections, proinflammatory cytokines and inflammatory metabolites.

The link may also be possibly influenced by other factors. The psychological effect of hospitalization due to severe infection, for instance, may have an impact on a person's risk for suicide.

"An increased risk of death by suicide was found among individuals hospitalized with infection in prospective and dose-response relationships. These findings indicate that infections may have a relevant role in the pathophysiological mechanisms of suicidal behavior," researchers wrote in their study, which was published Aug. 10.

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