In the Journals

Young suicide attempters may face mental health issues later in life

Young adults and older teenagers who attempt suicide are more likely to develop mental health and social problems later in life, according to study results published in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study included 1,037 participants, 91 of whom attempted suicide, born between 1972 and 1973. Follow-up interviews were conducted when participants were aged 18, 21, 26, 32 and 38 years. The mean age at first suicide attempt was 17.4 years. Of those who attempted suicide, 52 were female and 39 were male.

Researchers found that participants who attempted suicide were two times more likely to experience major depression and develop substance dependencies than participants who did not attempt suicide. More than 20% of those who attempted suicide reported additional attempts and were three times more likely to self-harm.

Those who attempted suicide also exhibited poorer physical health compared with their study cohorts. They were more likely to develop metabolic syndrome and elevated inflammation. The mean “heart age,” calculated by the Framingham cardiovascular risk score, of suicide attempters was 42 years, 4 years older than their actual age and the mean risk score of those who did not attempt suicide.

Suicide attempters were more likely to engage in abusive behaviors within their intimate relationships and to be convicted of a violent crime. Additionally, those who attempted suicide had higher unemployment rates and were more likely to depend on welfare. They also reported feelings of loneliness and were less satisfied with their lives.

“The results of this study provide evidence that young suicide attempters, approaching midlife, are at a substantially increased risk for a wide array of negative health and social outcomes. Young suicide attempters may warrant long-term follow-up and supportive care in the years after their attempt(s). In an era of economic stress and scarce financial resources, young suicide attempters may be an important target for intervention and secondary prevention services,” Sidra Goldman-Mellor, PhD, of the University of North Carolina, and colleagues concluded.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.