The risk of suicide is almost seven times higher in patients who have had a diagnosis of young onset dementia than in patients without dementia, a new study has found.
Researchers from Queen Mary University in London and the University of Nottingham found that almost 2% of patients with a dementia diagnosis die from suicide.
Suicide risks were higher for patients who were diagnosed with dementia under the age of 65, patients with psychiatric comorbidity, and patients recently diagnosed with dementia.
The findings are published in JAMA Neurology and highlight the need for better services to support patients in the initial period after a dementia diagnosis.
There are around 850,000 people in the UK currently living with dementia, and approximately 70,800 have young onset dementia. Only around two-thirds of people with dementia have a diagnosis, and the NHS has prioritised the need for timely and accurate dementia diagnosis by expanding diagnosis clinics.
The researchers analysed the medical records of 594,674 people between 2001 and 2019 to determine if there was a link between dementia diagnosis and suicide risk. Data were obtained from primary care, secondary care, and the Office for National Statistics. Of the population analysed, 4 940 people received a dementia diagnosis, and 95 of these patients died by suicide.
Dr Charles Marshall, senior author and researcher at Queen Mary University, said: ‘Improving access to a dementia diagnosis is an important healthcare priority. However, a dementia diagnosis can be devastating, and our work shows that we also need to ensure that services have the resources to provide appropriate support after a diagnosis is given.’
In patients younger than 65 years, suicide risk was 6.69 times higher within three months of diagnosis than in patients without dementia.
The researchers stated that primary and secondary care settings must address the increased suicide rate in high-risk groups after a dementia diagnosis.
Dr Danah Alothman, lead author from the University of Nottingham, added: ‘These findings suggest that memory clinics should particularly target suicide risk assessment to patients with young-onset dementia, patients in the first few months after dementia diagnosis and patients already known to have psychiatric problems.’
This comes after researchers are calling for post-diagnosis treatment and support to be recognised as a human right after they found many people with dementia could be missing out on essential care after diagnosis.