Suicide among people with epilepsy: A population-based analysis of data from the U.S. National Violent Death Reporting System, 17 states, 2003–2011
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Suicide among people with epilepsy: A population-based analysis of data from the U.S. National Violent Death Reporting System, 17 states, 2003–2011

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  • Alternative Title:
    Epilepsy Behav
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    This study analyzed suicide data in the general population from the U.S. National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) to investigate suicide burden among those with epilepsy and risk factors associated with suicide and to suggest measures to prevent suicide among people with epilepsy.


    The NVDRS is a multiple-state, population-based, active surveillance system that collects information on violent deaths including suicide. Among people 10 years old and older, we identified 972 suicide cases with epilepsy and 81,529 suicide cases without epilepsy in 17 states from 2003 through 2011. We estimated their suicide rates, evaluated suicide risk among people with epilepsy, and investigated suicide risk factors specific to epilepsy by comparing those with and without epilepsy. In 16 of the 17 states providing continual data from 2005 through 2011, we also compared suicide trends in people with epilepsy (n = 833) and without epilepsy (n = 68,662).


    From 2003 through 2011, the estimated annual suicide mortality rate among people with epilepsy was 16.89/100,000 per persons, 22% higher than that in the general population. Compared with those without epilepsy, those with epilepsy were more likely to have died from suicide in houses, apartments, or residential institutions (81% vs. 76%, respectively) and were twice as likely to poison themselves (38% vs. 17%) (P < 0.01). More of those with epilepsy aged 40–49 died from suicide than comparably aged persons without epilepsy (29% vs. 22%) (P < 0.01). The proportion of suicides among those with epilepsy increased steadily from 2005 through 2010, peaking significantly in 2010 before falling.


    For the first time, the suicide rate among people with epilepsy in a large U.S. general population was estimated, and the suicide risk exceeded that in the general population. Suicide prevention efforts should target people with epilepsy 40–49 years old. Additional preventive efforts include reducing the availability or exposure to poisons, especially at home, and supporting other evidence-based programs to reduce mental illness comorbidity associated with suicide.

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