Increased risk of suicide among autistic children
Children with autism have a higher risk of suicide than other children, according to a study led by Penn State College of Medicine scientists. Angela Gorman, assistant professor of child psychiatry, said that there are risk factors in these children associated with the idea of suicidal contemplation or suicide attempts than other children. Researchers analyzed several demographic variables (race, age, etc.) to see which risk factors are associated with suicide contemplation or suicide attempt.
This study is the first large-scale study using data from parents to analyze the rate of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among children with autism. The study included 791 children with autism, 186 typical children and 35 non-autistic depressed children aged between 1 and 16 years. There were evaluated various demographic, cognitive abilities and IQ.
It was found that in autistic children contemplating or attempting suicide risk was 28 times higher than in normal children. However, it should be noted that the risk among these children was three times lower compared with the same risk in depressed non-autistic children. The researchers mentioned that demographic variables in predicting the risk were very significant. It seems that the risk of suicidal contemplation was more important in boys, however gender was not statistically significant for suicide attempts.
It was also found that autistic children whose parents occupy managerial position have a lower risk of suicidal contemplation or attempts than autistic children whose parents occupy other positions (10% versus 16%). It was also discovered that black and Hispanic children were more likely to have suicide contemplation or attempts than white and Asian children. Age over 10 years also involve an increased risk. Gorman said most children that were rated in all 4 categories have contemplated or attempted suicide. Another important finding was that depression and behavioral problems are significant risk factors of suicide ideation.
According to the study, depression was the most important factor in predicting suicide contemplation or attempts among children with autism. This risk is absent among children who were not impulsive and it seems that autistic children who do not have behavioral problems and those who do not fit into any of the four categories are unlikely to have suicide attempts or contemplation. Also, it appears that cognitive ability or IQ does not affect too much the idea of suicide among children with autism. Researchers want now to continue the research and to include more predictors such as previous attempts, negative events, family history of suicide and biological and biochemical variables.