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Patients with persistent eczema at increased risk of death from suicide

December 17, 2018

By Sarah Warr

Patients with persistent eczema have a modestly increased risk, 22 per cent, of death from suicide, according to a new study led by Dr. Aaron Drucker, scientist at Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) and dermatologist at Women’s College Hospital (WCH). The paper, published in BMJ Open, analyzed data from the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences to determine whether persistent eczema was associated with a patient’s subsequent risk of suicide.

Eczema is a common skin disease that has been previously linked to mental illness. In cases of persistent eczema, the disease can be debilitating due to extreme itch, social embarrassment, sleep loss and impaired quality of life. While the findings from this study demonstrates an association between eczema and suicide, the absolute risk was low as the association was largely explained by mental health disorders including depression, anxiety and substance use. This suggests that eczema has an overall influence on mental health but is not an independent factor for suicide risk.

Dr. Drucker also assessed the recency of physician visits prior to suicide among patients with eczema. He found that two in five of these individuals visited with a physician in the week before their death, most commonly a family physician. This novel finding highlights an opportunity for physicians to intervene for suicide prevention through additional screening for psychological distress in eczema patients.

This study was jointly funded by the National Eczema Association and Eczema Society of Canada. 

Congratulations to Dr. Drucker on receiving a 2018 Research Grant from the Eczema Society of Canada! The $25,000 in funding will further support Dr. Drucker’s research in completing a meta-analysis of systemic treatments for eczema.

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