Risk factors for suicide in epilepsy: a case control study

Epilepsia. 2002 Jun;43(6):644-51. doi: 10.1046/j.1528-1157.2002.40001.x.


Purpose: Suicide is considered to be one of the most important causes of death contributing to the increased mortality of persons with epilepsy. We investigated the association between the risk of suicide in persons with epilepsy and clinical factors that might increase or have been suggested to increase the risk of suicide.

Methods: A case-control study was nested within a cohort of 6,880 patients registered in the Stockholm County In-Patient Register with a diagnosis of epilepsy. The study population was followed up through the National Cause of Death Register. Twenty-six cases of suicide, 23 cases of suspected but not proven suicide, and 171 controls, living epilepsy patients, were selected from the cohort. Clinical data were collected through medical record review.

Results: There was a ninefold increase in risk of suicide with mental illness and a 10-fold increase in relative risk (RR) with the use of antipsychotic drugs. The estimated RR of suicide was 16.0 [95% confidence interval (CI), 4.4-58.3] for onset of epilepsy at younger than 18 years, compared with onset after 29 years. The risk of suicide seemed to increase with high seizure frequency and antiepileptic drug (AED) polytherapy, although the estimates were imprecise and the associations not statistically significant. Insufficient data on seizure frequency and changes in AED dosage due to incomplete case records were associated with high RRs. We found no association between risk of suicide and any particular AED, with type of epilepsy, or localization or lateralization of epileptogenic focus on EEG [RR = 0.3 (95% CI, 0.1-1.7)].

Conclusions: The profile of the epilepsy patient who commits suicide that emerges from our study is a patient with early onset (particularly onset during adolescence) but not necessarily severe epilepsy, psychiatric illness, and perhaps inadequate neurologic follow-up. Previous reports of an association with temporal lobe epilepsy could not be confirmed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cause of Death
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / mortality
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sweden / epidemiology


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotic Agents