Adults who as children experienced physical, sexual, and emotional abuse or neglect are at least two to three times more likely to attempt suicide in later life, the largest research review ever carried out on the topic revealed Wednesday.
Psychologists at the University of Manchester and University of South Wales published their findings after an analysis of 68 studies from around the world involving 262,000 adults aged 18 years or older, who were exposed to childhood abuse and neglect.
They found that suicide attempts were three times more likely for people who experienced sexual abuse as a child, and two and a half times more likely for those who experienced physical abuse as a child, or who experienced emotional abuse or neglect as a child.
Their research published in the latest edition of Psychological Medicine showed children who experienced multiple abuse are as much as five times higher to attempt suicide. People not in contact with mental health clinicians were found to be at the highest level of risk.
Dr. Maria Panagioti, from the University of Manchester, also based at a patient safety translational research center in the city, led the research team.
She said: “Around one adult in every three has experienced abuse as a child. This study conclusively gives us solid evidence that childhood abuse and neglect is associated with increased likelihood that they will be at risk of suicide as adults.”
Panagioti said current treatment for people with suicidal behavior usually centers around cognitive behavioral therapy, adding: “But that assumes people will seek help themselves. This research identifies that people who are not under the care of clinicians are at risk.”
She said a new approach is needed to identify these people, and to focus efforts on effective community intervention.
Dr. Ioannis Angelakis from the University of South Wales said: “These findings not only provided a clear picture of the connection between abuse or neglect in childhood and suicide attempts later on in life, but also recognised that efficient interventions should take a broader community-based approach.”