An alarming new study warns restless leg syndrome (RLS) can significantly raise the risk of suicide and self-harm. Penn State researchers found the risk was just as high even after they took into account other factors like depression, insomnia, and diabetes.
For the study, the team examined data from the Truven Health MarketScan national claims from 2006 to 2014. The data included information on 24,179 people who had been diagnosed with RLS and 145,194 people who did not have the condition. Through their investigation, the team found those with RLS had a 270 per cent increased risk of suicide or self-harm compared to those who did not suffer the condition.
"After controlling for these factors, we still didn't see the association decrease, meaning RLS could still be an independent variable contributing to suicide and self-harm," Muzi Na, Broadhurst Career Development Professor for the Study of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at Penn State, told a news portal. Adding, "We still don't know the exact reason, but our results can help shape future research to learn more about the mechanism."
Experts say physicians need to pay attention to the mental health of patients with RLS as suicide cases are on the rise across the globe. "Our study suggests that restless legs syndrome isn't just connected to physical conditions, but to mental health, as well," Xiang Gao, associate professor of nutritional sciences and director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Lab at Penn State, told a news portal. Adding, "And, with RLS being under-diagnosed and suicide rates rising, this connection is going to be more and more important. Clinicians may want to be careful when they're screening patients both for RLS and suicide risk."
Restless leg syndrome reportedly affects close to 5 per cent of the population in the US.RLS patients feel an uncomfortable feeling and an urge to move their legs even in the nights. The cause of the condition is not yet known. However, some studies suggest it could be due to iron deficiency and low levels of dopamine.
Previous studies have also found RLS to have a strong connection to hypertension and heart attacks."I've wanted to explore a potential connection between RLS and suicide for more than 10 years, but because both RLS and suicide rates are low from a data perspective, it wasn't possible," Gao told a news portal. Adding, "But, when I moved here to Penn State, I gained access to a data set with more than 200 million people, so it gave us power to finally test this hypothesis."
Further research is needed to better understand this connection. The study's findings were originally published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open.
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