People with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may have an increased risk for suicide attempts, with young adults particularly vulnerable, according to a recent study.
The research, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that those with PCOS had an 8.47-fold higher risk for suicide attempts than women without the condition.
“These findings emphasize the importance of clinician vigilance in monitoring the mental well-being and suicide risk of patients diagnosed with PCOS,” the authors of the study stated.
PCOS is one of the most prevalent reproductive endocrine disorders affecting around 10 per cent of women in their reproductive years, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
It’s caused by a hormone imbalance that can affect ovulation as well as cause problems with periods as well as infertility. It may also cause acne, weight gain, and hair growth on the face or body.
If left untreated, PCOS can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, according to the CMAJ.
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The Taiwan researcher behind the study wanted to also look at the suicide risk in people with PCOS. To find this, a team of researchers examined data from the Taiwanese nationwide database from 1997 to 2012. The group included more than 18,000 females aged 12 to 64 years old diagnosed with PCOS with no history of suicide attempts before enrolment.
After considering variables such as psychiatric disorders, additional health issues and demographic factors, the researchers discovered that individuals with PCOS faced a greater risk of suicide attempts compared to women who did not have the condition but shared similar traits.
They also found the risk of suicide attempts was 5.38 times higher for adolescents, 9.15 times higher for adults under 40, and 3.75 times higher for older adults, compared with controls.
Common attributes linked with PCOS include infertility, acne, dysmenorrhea, hirsutism and obesity, “which can collectively contribute to a decreased quality of life,” and lead to psychological distress, the authors state.
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Disturbances and fluctuations in hormonal levels may affect emotional well-being. Menstrual irregularities and the potential of infertility may also create stress for those with the condition, the study stated.
The authors noted that for young adults with PCOS, the risk for suicide attempts remained high compared with control participants without the condition. This may be related to the persistence of psychological distress, body dissatisfaction, and reproductive concerns in this age group, they concluded.
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“Young adults may face additional challenges, such as unemployment, financial difficulties, relationship problems, and concerns about infertility, that could increase their vulnerability to suicidal behavior,” the authors said.
“Polycystic ovaries is a really bad diagnosis,” Diane Francoeur, CEO of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC), told Global News.
“There’s nothing good about it. You’re more likely to gain weight easily, you’re going to have acne, more hair, you may have an irregular period and problems getting pregnant. And if you are older and if you gain weight, you might get endometrial cancer. So all of this is bad.”
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Francoeur, who is not part of the study, acknowledged the importance of this type of research that looks at women’s mental health, especially those who have PCOS.
She mentioned that treatment options for PCOS are limited (weight loss and hormone treatment are options). However, she noted that birth control is beneficial for women struggling with the condition.
“And sometimes women feel depressed because of the (stigma) with this… and because women do not feel supported,” she said. “But women should be talking about this.”
This isn’t the first study to find a link PCOS with mental health.
A CMAJ study on PSOS published on Jan. 29, said patients with the condition have a high prevalence of depression and anxiety.
In a meta-analysis of 47 studies, depression was more likely among patients with PCOS than those without PCOS, the report said. In a meta-analysis of 27 studies reporting on anxiety, patients with PCOS had a higher risk of anxiety than those without.
“Polycystic ovarian syndrome can have a negative impact on body image and self-esteem, and is also associated with a higher rate of disordered eating,” the study concluded.
Although there are risks associated with PCOS, Francoeur said an early diagnosis of the condition can help alleviate them.
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“The good thing about knowing ahead is that you can help women and girls in their teens not to gain too much weight,” she said, as this is one of the key preventive measures against health complications later in life.
The Taiwan study concludes that increased awareness and destigmatization of PCOS are essential in the general community and among girls and women.
“Referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker for medical assistance or case management is recommended for patients at high risk for suicide,” the authors stated.
© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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