Adults with Asperger's at higher risk of suicidal thoughts

Posted on September 20, 2016

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In what is deemed the first large-scale clinical study of its kind, researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK suggest that adults who have Asperger's syndrome are at much higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts than the general population.

The research team, led by Dr. Sarah Cassidy and Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen of the Autism Research Centre at the university, recently published their findings in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Asperger's syndrome is a type of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterized by difficulties with communication, problems with social interaction and repetitive patterns of behavior. Unlike those with other ASDs, individuals with Asperger's tend to have good cognitive and language skills.

According to the investigators, Asperger's is frequently linked with depression, but very few studies have analyzed how the disorder affects an adult's suicidal ideation - thoughts about committing suicide.

With this in mind, Dr. Cassidy, Prof. Baron-Cohen and their colleagues assessed 374 individuals in the UK who had been diagnosed with Asperger's as an adult between 2004 and 2013.

All participants were required to complete a questionnaire that asked them to report their lifetime experience of depression, suicidal ideation and suicide plans or attempts. Rates of suicidal ideation among participants were then compared with the rates of suicidal ideation among the general UK population and patients with other psychosis.

The researchers found that 66% of participants with Asperger's reported suicidal ideation, compared with only 17% of the general population and 59% of patients with psychosis.

In detail, the team found that 66% of patients with Asperger's had thought about committing suicide and of these, 35% had planned or attempted suicide during their lifetime.

According to the researchers, suicidal thoughts and behaviors were much more common among adults with Asperger's who had a history of depression. Those with a history of depression were four times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and twice as likely to plan or attempt suicide than Asperger's patients without a history of depression.

Furthermore, the team found that adults with Asperger's who had autistic traits were also more likely to plan or attempt suicide than those without these traits.

Dr. Cassidy notes that their findings support previous research indicating that adults with Asperger's are at much higher risk of suicide than other clinical groups and that depression is a key risk factor in this.

To read the full article, click on the link below.

Category(s):Asperger's Syndrome, Autism spectrum disorders

Source material from Medical News Today

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