From Boys to Men: Suicide Risk

April 9, 2009

A study suggests that adolescent and young adult men who commit suicide or make serious attempts have a history of emotional problems that date back to 8 years of age.

According to news sources, salmonella at the heart of a pistachio recall was actually detected in excess of 6 months ago. Wow, sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

The HIMSS conference in Chicago this week is winding down, but I’m curious if any readers had the chance to attend the Pediatric Health Informatics and Technology SIG meeting on Monday? If you are attending the conference this week or are part of an organization represented, please feel free to share news here.

The April issue of Archives of General Psychiatry has a study conducted by Finnish researchers which suggests that adolescent and young adult men who commit suicide or make serious attempts have a history of emotional problems that date back to 8 years of age. I thought the clinical implications of the study were relevant, as I would doubt that young males would be inclined to seek professional help.

The study included 5302 people born in Finland in 1981, for whom information regarding psychopathologic conditions, school performance, and family demographics were gathered. Of the 27 men who committed or attempted to commit suicide, 78% screened positive at 8 years of age on Rutter Parent or Teacher scales.

One of the researchers, Kirsti Kumpulainen, MD, published a study in 2002 in which Rutter scores in the deviant range at age 8 were predictive of referral for psychiatric evaluation by age 12. And while this may or may not be relevant, I also want to point out a study reported last year which found that children exhibiting aggressive/bullying behavior toward other children are also at increased risk for suicide.

Interestingly, psychopathologic disorders at the age of 8 years did not predict suicidality among young women. And while the same number of men and women made serious suicide attempts, 13 men succeeded in taking their lives as compared to 2 women.

All to say that young boys have some unique risks that healthcare professionals might consider more carefully with respect to routine screening.