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The findings suggest that it might be a good idea to regularly screen stroke survivors for depression and suicidal thoughts, the researchers said.
The investigators analyzed data from the 2005 to 2010 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and found that nearly 8 percent of stroke survivors reported suicidal thoughts, compared with about 6 percent of heart attack survivors, 5 percent of diabetes patients and 4 percent of cancer patients.
The proportion of stroke survivors who thought about suicide was surprising, compared to patients with other health issues, noted study lead author Dr. Amytis Towfighi, an assistant professor of clinical neurology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and chair of neurology at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.
Stroke survivors who had more severe depression, were younger, had higher body mass index (a measurement of body fat), had less education, and were poorer, single or women were more likely to have suicidal thoughts, according to the study presented Thursday at the American Stroke Association annual meeting, in Honolulu.
Seventeen percent of the people who'd had a stroke also had depression, which is the most common mental health complication in stroke survivors, the study authors noted.
"Given the high prevalence of suicidal thoughts among stroke survivors, perhaps regular screening for suicidal ideation, in addition to depression, is warranted," Towfighi said in an American Heart Association news release.
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
There are about 7 million adult stroke survivors in the United States, according to the American Stroke Association.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Feb. 7, 2013
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