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