Children with autism are much more likely than other kids to consider taking their own lives, new research suggests.
In what’s believed to be the largest study to date looking at suicide and autism, researchers found that children with the developmental disorder were 28 times more likely than typically developing kids to contemplate or attempt suicide. Among those with autism, kids who were bullied or teased and those with depression or behavior problems were at highest risk.
The study published recently in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders looked at nearly 800 kids with autism, almost 200 without the developmental disorder and 35 kids with depression and no autism diagnosis, all between the ages of 1 and 16. Researchers reviewed interviews with the children’s mothers and looked at clinical data on the kids.
Among those with autism, 14 percent had talked about harming or killing themselves or had attempted suicide. The severity of their diagnosis and IQ score did not appear to impact whether or not a child was at risk, but certain demographic factors did. Children with autism who were male, black or Hispanic, age 10 or older and those with lower socioeconomic status did appear to be more likely to have thought about suicide.
“That was probably the most important piece of the study,” said Angela Gorman of the Penn State College of Medicine who was one of the researchers behind the report. “If you fell into any of those categories and were rated to be autistic by a parent, the more categories you were a part of increased your chances for experiencing suicidal ideation or attempts.”
Despite the increased suicide risk for those with autism, such children were still three times less likely to consider taking their own lives than kids with depression alone, the study found.
Researchers said that the findings highlight the need for children with autism to be screened for suicide risk.