Lyme Borreliosis and Associations With Mental Disorders and Suicidal Behavior: A Nationwide Danish Cohort Study

Am J Psychiatry. 2021 Oct 1;178(10):921-931. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2021.20091347. Epub 2021 Jul 28.


Objective: Lyme borreliosis is a tick-borne infectious disease that may confer an increased risk of mental disorders, but previous studies have been hampered by methodological limitations, including small sample sizes. The authors used a nationwide retrospective cohort study design to examine rates of mental disorders following Lyme borreliosis.

Methods: Using Denmark's National Patient Register and the Psychiatric Central Research Register, and including all persons living in Denmark from 1994 through 2016 (N=6,945,837), the authors assessed the risk of mental disorders and suicidal behaviors among all individuals diagnosed with Lyme borreliosis in inpatient and outpatient hospital contacts (N=12,156). Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) were calculated by Poisson regression analyses.

Results: Individuals with Lyme borreliosis had higher rates of any mental disorder (IRR=1.28, 95% CI=1.20, 1.37), of affective disorders (IRR=1.42, 95% CI=1.27, 1.59), of suicide attempts (IRR=2.01, 95% CI=1.58, 2.55), and of death by suicide (IRR=1.75, 95% CI=1.18, 2.58) compared with those without Lyme borreliosis. The 6-month interval after diagnosis was associated with the highest rate of any mental disorder (IRR=1.96, 95% CI=1.53, 2.52), and the first 3 years after diagnosis was associated with the highest rate of suicide (IRR=2.41, 95% CI=1.25, 4.62). Having more than one episode of Lyme borreliosis was associated with increased incidence rate ratios for mental disorders, affective disorders, and suicide attempts, but not for death by suicide.

Conclusions: Individuals diagnosed with Lyme borreliosis in the hospital setting had an increased risk of mental disorders, affective disorders, suicide attempts, and suicide. Although the absolute population risk is low, clinicians should be aware of potential psychiatric sequelae of this global disease.

Keywords: Cohort Study; Depressive Disorders; Epidemiology; Lyme Disease; Suicide and Self-Harm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Correlation of Data
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lyme Disease* / diagnosis
  • Lyme Disease* / epidemiology
  • Lyme Disease* / psychology
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders* / physiopathology
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*