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Autism Res. 2014 Aug;7(4):507-21. doi: 10.1002/aur.1375. Epub 2014 May 5.

What do we know about suicidality in autism spectrum disorders? A systematic review.

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Department of Psychology, York University, ON, Canada.


Suicidality is a common and concerning issue across development, and there is a plethora of research on this topic among typically developing children and youth. Very little is known, however, about the nature of suicidality among individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The purpose of the current study was to undertake a systematic literature review to assess the current state of the research literature to examine the prevalence of suicidality among individuals with ASD, related demographic and clinical profiles, and associated risk and protective factors. A literature search using key terms related to suicidality and ASD yielded 10 topical studies that were evaluated for the study objectives. Suicidality was present in 10.9-50% of the ASD samples identified in the systematic review. Further, several large-scale studies found that individuals with ASD comprised 7.3-15% of suicidal populations, a substantial subgroup. Risk factors were identified and included peer victimization, behavioral problems, being Black or Hispanic, being male, lower socioeconomic status, and lower level of education. Only one study reported on protective factors, and this is identified as a significant gap in the literature. Several methodological weaknesses were present in the current literature, such as lack of appropriate comparison groups and little to no use of empirically validated measures for ASD diagnosis and suicide assessment. Additional research is necessary to understand better how this unique population experiences and expresses suicidal tendencies. Recommendations for future research are discussed.


autism spectrum disorders; prevalence; protective factors; risk factors; suicidality; suicide

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