Patients with early-onset dementia have a much higher risk of suicide within the first three months of their diagnosis when compared to their peers without dementia, a new study has found.

Investigators looked at the medical records of nearly 600,000 patients in memory clinics across the United Kingdom from 2001 to 2019. Nearly 2% of patients with a dementia diagnosis died from suicide, reported Danah Alothman, BMBCh, MPH, of the University of Nottingham. 

For those diagnosed with dementia at age 65 and younger, suicide risk is seven times higher than in patients without dementia. The first three months after a diagnosis and having a known psychiatric illness were also factors linked to relatively high risk.

The authors recommend that diagnostic and management services for dementia target suicide risk assessment to these groups, in both primary and secondary care settings.

“Improving access to a dementia diagnosis is an important healthcare priority,” said lead author Charles R. Marshall, MRCP, PhD, of the Wolfson Institute of Population Health in London. “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.”

The study was published in JAMA Neurology.

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