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Updated 06 December 2013

Early suicide attempts predict later-life trouble

A study finds that people who attempt suicide before their mid-20s are at increased risk for mental and physical health problems later in life.

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People who attempt suicide before their mid-20s are at increased risk for mental and physical health problems later in life, a new study finds.

"The suicide attempt is a powerful predictor" of later-life trouble, said Sidra Goldman-Mellor, of the Centre for Developmental Science at the University of North Carolina, who worked on the study with Duke University researchers. "We think it's a very powerful red flag."

Researchers looked at data collected from more than 1 000 New Zealanders between birth and age 38. Of those people, 91 (nearly 9%) attempted suicide by age 24.

Dissatisfied with life

By the time they were in their 30s, the people who had attempted suicide were twice as likely as those who hadn't tried to kill themselves to develop conditions that put them at increased risk for heart disease. They were also three times more likely to have been hospitalised for a psychiatric disorder, and were more likely to report feeling lonely and dissatisfied with life.

Those who had attempted suicide before 24 were 2.5 times more likely to have been convicted of a violent crime, had consumed twice as much welfare support and had been unemployed for twice as many months as those who hadn't attempted suicide.

The suicide attempts aren't the cause of these problems, nor are the problems necessarily a result of the suicidal behaviour, Sidra Goldman-Mellor said in a Duke news release.

The researchers also found that the people who attempted suicide before age 24 were more impulsive and had more conduct disorders and depression when they were children, well before their suicide attempts.

The findings indicate that a strong response and follow-up after attempted suicide may help prevent problems later in life, Goldman-Mellor said.

More information

The American Association of Suicidology offers help for suicide attempt survivors.

 

 
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