Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are eight times more likely to try to kill themselves, according to study of 18,000 patients
- Adult patients have a 9-fold increased risk, while for teenagers it is 5-fold
- Researchers say this is due to self-confidence issues arising from the symptoms
- READ MORE: Chronic ovarian cysts increase women’s risk of mental health problems
Women with a common reproductive disorder are eight times more likely to take their own lives than those without, according to a new study of nearly 20,000 women.
Researchers at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan analyzed the health outcomes for women aged 12-64 with polycystic ovary syndrome over the course of 15 years.
The condition affects about one in 10 American women of childbearing age — and affects how well the ovaries work, which affects fertility.
There are three main characteristics of the condition; irregular ovulation, increased testosterone and small fluid-filled sacs that form on the ovaries.
This leads to a range of symptoms including scanty periods, weight gain, excessive hair growth and fertility problems.
Studies show that about a third of infertility cases in women are linked to PCOS.
Now, the latest research suggests that mental illness should be added to the list of life-destroying problems associated with the condition.
Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome develop fluid-filled sacs on their ovaries due to an excess of the hormone androgen and are at greater risk for mental illness, the study found
PCOS gained mainstream attention thanks to public figures such as actress Daisy Ridley (pictured) opening up about their experiences with PCOS
The authors wrote: ‘Of note, persons diagnosed with PCOS have an increased susceptibility to suicide attempts and self-harm compared to those without the condition.’
As for the reasons for this, the investigators suggested that it is partly related to self-confidence problems arising from the symptoms.
Issues such as weight gain, acne and excess hair growth can ‘adversely affect their body image and self-confidence, leading to psychological distress’, they said.
They added: ‘Challenges related to fertility and managing PCOS symptoms can further exacerbate existing mental health challenges.’
The condition has gained more attention in recent years, especially as high-profile women have opened up about their struggles with PCOS.
For example, actress Daisy Ridley revealed in 2016 that the pain she was in and the condition’s effect on her complexion had made her ‘so self-conscious’ that her sense of self-confidence was ‘in tatters’.
In their study, the researchers looked at women with and without PCOS, and analyzed the percentage in each group diagnosed with psychiatric diagnoses known to carry a high risk of suicide.
These include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and drug/alcohol use.
A similar percentage of each group had psychiatric disorders—about 10 percent.
However, the researchers found that women with PCOS had, on average, an 8.47-fold increased risk of attempting suicide compared to women without the condition.
When they further broke it down by age group, the authors found that 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 to controls.
The decline in suicide attempt risk in older age may be due to improvement in symptoms as women approach menopause, such as period regularity.
However, testosterone levels remain out of balance, which is why older women with PCOS continue to experience poorer mental health.
When the researchers looked at women without mental health problems, they found that PCOS patients were 8.34 times more likely to attempt suicide compared to those without the condition.
The authors said: “These findings highlight the importance of clinical vigilance in monitoring the mental well-being and suicidal risk of patients diagnosed with PCOS.”
Their findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.