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May 28, 2021

Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias (ADRD) can be a pivotal and stressful period. We examined the risk of suicide in the first year after ADRD diagnosis relative to the general geriatric population.

We identified a national cohort of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries aged ≥ 65 years with newly diagnosed ADRD (n = 2,667,987) linked to the National Death Index.

The suicide rate for the ADRD cohort was 26.42 per 100,000 person-years. The overall standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for suicide was 1.53 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.42, 1.65) with the highest risk among adults aged 65 to 74 years (SMR = 3.40, 95% CI = 2.94, 3.86) and the first 90 days after ADRD diagnosis. Rural residence and recent mental health, substance use, or chronic pain conditions were associated with increased suicide risk.

Results highlight the importance of suicide risk screening and support at the time of newly diagnosed dementia, particularly for patients aged < 75 years.

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Author: Timothy Schmutte,
Mark Olfson,
Donovan T. Maust,
Ming Xie,
Steven C. Marcus