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A study of almost 600,000 people in England shows that the risk of suicide in the first three months after a diagnosis of dementia in patients under the age of 65 is almost 7 times higher than in patients without dementia.

There are currently around 850,000 people living in the UK dementia and it is the leading cause of death. About 42,000 of them have dementia at a young age. Only around two-thirds of those living with dementia have been diagnosed and have improved access to timely and accurate diagnosis of dementia is one of the main priorities of the NHS. However, the expansion of memory clinics to diagnose dementia has not always been accompanied by additional resources to support patients during the difficult period after diagnosis.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London and the University of Nottingham conducted a population-based study of medical records from 2001 to 2019 to determine whether there was a link between a diagnosis of dementia and the risk of suicide. Researchers found that nearly 2% of patients diagnosed with dementia died by suicide. The results showed that patients were at high risk of suicide after being diagnosed with dementia before the age of 65, within the first three months of diagnosis, or if they had a known psychiatric illness.

Early recognition and timely, accurate diagnosis of dementia, combined with specialist support, is essential important factors in reducing the suffering caused by a diagnosis at a young age.

Dr Charles Marshall, senior author and clinical lecturer and honorary consultant neurologist at Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute for Population Health, said:

“Improving access to dementia diagnosis is an important public health priority. However, a diagnosis of dementia can be devastating and our work shows that we also need to ensure that services have the resources to provide appropriate support once a diagnosis is made.’

Dr Dana Alotman, lead author and research fellow at the University of Nottingham, said:

“These findings suggest that memory clinics should be particularly targeted risk of suicide assessment of patients with dementia at a young age, patients in the first few months after dementia diagnosis and sick people it is already known that he has mental problems.”


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Additional information:
Risk of suicide after a diagnosis of dementia: a longitudinal population-based study. JAMA Neurology (2022). DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.3094

Citation: Suicide risk nearly seven times higher after dementia diagnosis at young age (October 3, 2022) Retrieved October 3, 2022, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-10-suicide-higher-diagnosis-young- onset.html

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