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Youthful Suicide Attempts Can Predict Lifelong Troubles

rope hang teen SSNew research has found that people who attempt suicide before the age of 24 are plagued by more health and psychiatric issues than those who do not.

They also have more economic difficulties later in life.

The new study also found that in their 30s, they were twice as likely to develop metabolic syndrome and have significantly higher levels of systemic inflammation, both markers of higher risk for cardiovascular disease, according to researchers.

They also were three times more likely to have been hospitalized for a psychiatric problem and more likely to report feeling lonely and dissatisfied with life.

The study used data collected from 1,037 men and women in New Zealand who participated in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.

According to researchers, 91 people, or 8.8 percent of those studied, had attempted suicide by age 24. This include all attempts, not just those that resulted in an emergency room visit or hospitalization, the researchers noted.

A suicide attempt at such a young age is a “powerful predictor” of trouble later in life, said Sidra Goldman-Mellor, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Developmental Science at the University of North Carolina. She has been analyzing the Dunedin data with Duke University professors Drs. Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt, who is the associate director of the New Zealand study.

“We think it’s a very powerful red flag,” she said.

Those who had attempted suicide before age 24 were found to be more impulsive and have more conduct disorders and depression when they were children — well before the attempts, according to Goldman-Mellor.

She noted it is difficult to say where their life troubles originate. “Our study did control for the fact that they have more psychiatric issues, but we may have missed some other underlying factors,” she said.

Goldman-Mellor, an epidemiologist who has studied links between economic conditions and suicidal behavior, notes that those participating in the New Zealand study were coming of age in an economic recession.

Given current economic conditions around the globe, including youth unemployment in Spain exceeding 50 percent, she said she is concerned about possible increases in suicidal behavior among youth.

“Suicide rates always go up during a recession,” she said.

The study’s findings indicate that a strong response to these young suicide attempts, as well as following up with the patients, would be a good investment for the entire community.

That’s because the data also revealed that those who had attempted suicide before 24 were 2.5 times more likely to be convicted of a violent crime, she noted. They also used twice as much welfare support and were unemployed for twice as many months as the other participants in the study, she said.

Predicting who is going to attempt suicide is very difficult, she acknowledged.

But if there’s an attempt “then you can identify them easily, and get them some more comprehensive after-care,” Goldman-Mellor said.

Source: Duke University


Teenager contemplating suicide by hanging photo by shutterstock.

Youthful Suicide Attempts Can Predict Lifelong Troubles

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Youthful Suicide Attempts Can Predict Lifelong Troubles. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 8 Dec 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.