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Psychol Med. 2019 Jun 26:1-12. doi: 10.1017/S0033291719001405. [Epub ahead of print]

Individual risk and familial liability for suicide attempt and suicide in autism: a population-based study.

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Department of Women's and Children's Health, Pediatric Neuropsychiatry Unit,Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institutet (KIND), Karolinska Institutet,Stockholm,Sweden.
Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics,Karolinska Institutet,Stockholm,Sweden.
Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Division of Insurance Medicine,Karolinska Institutet,Stockholm,Sweden.



Studies on the individual gender-specific risk and familial co-aggregation of suicidal behaviour in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are lacking.


We conducted a matched case-cohort study applying conditional logistic regression models on 54 168 individuals recorded in 1987-2013 with ASD in Swedish national registers: ASD without ID n = 43 570 (out of which n = 19035, 43.69% with ADHD); ASD + ID n = 10 598 (out of which n = 2894 individuals, 27.31% with ADHD), and 270 840 controls, as well as 347 155 relatives of individuals with ASD and 1 735 775 control relatives.


The risk for suicidal behaviours [reported as odds ratio OR (95% confidence interval CI)] was most increased in the ASD without ID group with comorbid ADHD [suicide attempt 7.25 (6.79-7.73); most severe attempts i.e. requiring inpatient stay 12.37 (11.33-13.52); suicide 13.09 (8.54-20.08)]. The risk was also increased in ASD + ID group [all suicide attempts 2.60 (2.31-2.92); inpatient only 3.45 (2.96-4.02); suicide 2.31 (1.16-4.57)]. Females with ASD without ID had generally higher risk for suicidal behaviours than males, while both genders had highest risk in the case of comorbid ADHD [females, suicide attempts 10.27 (9.27-11.37); inpatient only 13.42 (11.87-15.18); suicide 14.26 (6.03-33.72); males, suicide attempts 5.55 (5.10-6.05); inpatient only 11.33 (9.98-12.86); suicide 12.72 (7.77-20.82)]. Adjustment for psychiatric comorbidity attenuated the risk estimates. In comparison to controls, relatives of individuals with ASD also had an increased risk of suicidal behaviour.


Clinicians treating patients with ASD should be vigilant for suicidal behaviour and consider treatment of psychiatric comorbidity.


Autism; family studies; gender differences; self-harm; suicide


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