Youth Suicide Attempts: Predicting Future Troubles?

youth suicideAccording to new research, individuals who attempt suicide before age 24 often suffer more health and psychiatric issues later in life compared with those who have not attempted suicide.[1] Due to being plagued by more health and psychiatric issues, these individuals also suffer more economic difficulties.1

In their 30s, these individuals are twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome and have significantly higher levels of systemic inflammation, both of which are markers of a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.1 Also, they are three times more likely to have been hospitalized for a psychiatric problem, reporting feeling lonely and dissatisfied with life.1

One-thousand and thirty-seven men and women in New Zealand participated in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.1 Of the participants, 8.8 percent, or 91 people, had attempted suicide by age 24.1 This number included all attempts—not just those that resulted in an emergency room visit or hospitalization.1

Postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Developmental Science at the University of North Carolina, Sidra Goldman-Mellor, Ph.D. said, “A suicide attempt at such a young age is a powerful predictor of trouble later in life. We think it is a very powerful red flag.”1

Goldman-Mellor has been analyzing the data from the Multidisciplinary study with professors Avshalom Caspi, M.D. and Terrie Moffitt, M.D. of Duke University.1

Those who had attempted suicide before age 24 were found to be more impulsive.1 They were more likely to have conduct disorder and depression as children, well before the attempts.1 However, it is difficult to say where their life troubles originated.1 The study did not control for underlying factors.1 Goldman-Mellor did note that those who participated in the study were coming of age in an economic recession, which can cause increased stress and depression.1 In fact, youth unemployment exceeds 50 percent which may increase suicidal behavior.1 Suicide rates are known to increase in a recession.1

Overall, a strong response to young suicide attempts, including important follow-ups, would be a great investment for society.1 The study’s data also revealed that those who had attempted suicide before age 24 were 2.5 times more likely to be convicted of a violent crime.1 They also were twice as likely to use welfare support and were likely to be unemployed for twice as many months as other participants in the study.1

While predicting who is going to attempt suicide is difficult, once there is an unsuccessful attempt, they are easily identified for much needed comprehensive after-care.1

[1] Wood, J. (2013). Youthful Suicide Attempts Can Predict Lifelong Troubles. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 12, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/08/youthful-suicide-attempts-can-predict-lifelong-troubles/63000.html

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