Bullying as a predictor of suicide in patients with autistic spectrum disorder


  • Heather Mason
  • Univadis Medical News
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The extent to which bullying increases suicidality in adolescents with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) was explored in a retrospective study published in Autism Research.

Longitudinal association between experiencing bullying and suicidality was studied in 680 adolescents (13-17 years) in mental health clinical services in South London, between 2008 and 2013.

Mention of suicidal ideation from the patient, concerns about suicide risk expressed by caregivers, and treatment or risk management provided in response to suicide risk (hospitalisations) were recorded. Follow-up was until their 18th birthday or five years post-baseline, whichever came sooner.

Experience of bullying in the first month of clinical contact was associated with increased suicidality risk over the follow‐up period. Female gender, psychosis, affective disorder diagnoses, and higher intellectual ability were all associated with suicidality at follow‐up.

Suicide rates are higher in adults with ASD compared to the general population. Young people with ASD are at 28-times higher risk of reporting suicidality compared to typically developing peers. 

Thus, more needs to be done to identify risk factors for suicidality in ASD adolescents, the authors say. Strategies for identifying and dealing with bullying in schools and broader suicide prevention programmes are required, they say.