Suicide Attempts Spike Soon After Dementia Diagnosis

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A new study shows just how devastating a diagnosis of mental decline can be: Researchers found that rates of suicide rise sharply in the months after such news is delivered.

The study of almost 148,000 older U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs patients, mostly men, looked at diagnoses for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is often (but not always) a precursor to dementia.

“Risk of suicide attempt was 73% higher in patients recently diagnosed with MCI and 44% higher in those recently diagnosed with dementia” compared to patients without such diagnoses, reported a team led by Amy Byers of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Health Care System. The researchers reported their findings March 24 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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