The dramatic headline “Suicide is Five Times More Likely in Parkinson’s Disease” caught my attention. It made it seem as though everyone with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) was either thinking about suicide, attempting suicide or committing suicide.
I was skeptical and asked Benzi Kluger, MD, neurologist and specialist in the non-motor symptoms of PD, at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Dr. Kluger’s comments about the study (at the bottom of this post) are as follows:
1) This is a relatively small study. There were just over 100 patients followed for 8 years and only 2 suicides. With such a small sample the chance of error is high. One more or less suicide would have totally changed their results.
2) Suicidal ideation (thoughts) seem to be higher in PD, which is not surprising because depression is also more frequent.
3) Suicide is a cultural phenomena and higher in Serbia, where this study was done, than in the US.
4) Some studies suggest suicide may be at increased risk after DBS, but again these studies are small.
5) There is probably some increased risk for suicide with PD, but larger studies are needed in this country to reliably estimate this risk. Physicians, patients and care givers should be aware of this risk and take it seriously.
1: J Neurol Sci. 2009 Sep 7. [Epub ahead of print]
Suicide and suicidal ideation in Parkinson's disease
Institute of Neurology CCS, School of Medicine, Belgrade, Serbia.
Little is known about the prevalence and correlates of suicidal behavior in Parkinson's disease (PD). In the first part of the study, we followed a cohort of 102 consecutive PD patients for 8 years and found that the suicide-specific mortality was 5.3 (95% CI 2.1-12.7) times higher than expected. In the second part, we tested 128 PD patients for death and suicidal ideation and administered an extensive neurological, neuropsychological and psychiatric battery. Current death and/or suicidal ideation was registered in 22.7%. On univariate logistic regression analysis, psychiatric symptoms (depression, but also anxiety and hopelessness), but not the PD-related variables, were associated with such ideation. On multivariate logistic regression analysis this association held for major depression (odds ratio=4.6; 95% CI 2.2-9.4; p<0.001), psychosis (odds ratio=19.2; 95% CI 1.4-27.3; p=0.026), and increasing score of the Beck Hopelessness Scale (odds ratio=1.2; 95% CI 1.0-1.4; p=0.008). In conclusion, the suicide risk in PD may not be as high as it is expected, but it is certainly not trivial. According to our data almost a quarter of PD patients had death and/or suicidal ideation, that may significantly influence their quality of life.
PMID: 19737673 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]