Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) often suffer from clinical anxiety or depressive symptoms in which suicidal behaviour is a common feature. In addition, aggression and impulsivity may relate to ASDs as well as to suicidal behaviour. However, suicidal behaviour in individuals with ASDs is little studied.
Our aim was to study suicidal behaviour in adolescents with ASDs compared to typically developed adolescents.
The ASD sample included 76 adolescents (age range 8-24 years, mean age 12,8 years, 56 boys, 17 girls), most of whom were recruited from child psychiatric outpatient clinic of University Hospital of Oulu, Finland. Some of them were recruited from the epidemiological study of Asperger syndrome in the catchment area of the hospital. All went through rigorous diagnostic examination for ASDs including e.g. ADI-R and ADOS. The control group included 76 typically developed adolescents (age range 8-16 years, mean age 12,3 years, 35 boys, 40 girls) recruited from mainstream schools in the city of Oulu, Finland. They were screened with the ASSQ and excluded if the total score was 7 or more. All participants (n=152) and their parents were interviewed with a semi-structured Kiddie-SADS-PL psychiatric interview in the year 2005, 2006, 2007 or 2008 as a part of a larger study of ASDs. Kiddie-SADS-PL includes the following items measuring suicidal behaviour: thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and deliberate self-harm (e.g. cutting and burning one-self). Lifetime suicidal behaviour in the study groups was analysed using the chi square testing.
Results: Adolescents with ASDs presented more thoughts of death (34.2% vs. 13.2%, p .002) and suicidal ideation (18.4% vs. 3.9%, p .008) than typically developed adolescents. There were negligible differences in suicide attempts (1.3% vs. 0%, NS) and deliberate self-harm (5.3% vs. 2.6%, NS) between adolescents with ASDs and typically developed adolescents. Age and gender did not have any effect on the results.
Children and adolescents with ASDs may have suicidal thoughts. This should be kept in mind when examining psychosocial well-being of these individuals in order to prevent negative outcomes and reduced mental health among individuals with ASDs.
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