WEDNESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- Military service members who sustain more than one mild traumatic brain injury may be at much greater risk of suicide, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Utah found that the risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors increased for a lifetime, not just short-term, among those with multiple head injuries.
"Up to now, no one has been able to say if multiple [traumatic brain injuries], which are common among combat veterans, are associated with higher suicide risk," study author Craig Bryan, an assistant professor of psychology, said in a university news release. "This study suggests they are, and it provides valuable information for professionals treating wounded combat servicemen and servicewomen to help manage the risk of suicide."
A traumatic brain injury is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury that disrupts brain function, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although these injuries can range from mild to severe, most are mild.
The study, published online May 15 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, involved 161 patients who suffered a possible traumatic brain injury while on duty in Iraq over the course of six months. The patients were mostly men with an average age of 27 and more than six years of military service. They were treated at an outpatient traumatic brain injury clinic at a combat support hospital.
Traumatic brain injury was assessed, and the service members were divided into three groups based on the number of injuries sustained during their lifetime: none, one and two or more.
"An important feature of the study is that by being on the ground in Iraq, we were able to compile a unique data set on active military personnel and head injuries," said Bryan, who also is associate director of the university's National Center for Veterans Studies. "We collected data on a
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