A study investigating the potential link between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and suicidal behaviour found a higher rate of suicide attempt and suicide among persons with ASD, but the potential risk factors are different from those in the general population, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.
In the retrospective analysis, a total of 64,109 incidents of suicide attempts and 14,197 suicides were recorded. Of these, 587 suicide attempts and 53 suicides occurred in people with diagnosed ASD, representing a three-fold increase in the rate of suicidal behaviour when compared with those without ASD, after adjusting for sex, age, and time period.
Some factors that are considered protective against suicide attempt in the general population, such as older age and higher educational level, did not show the same protective association among individuals with ASD.
The highest rates of suicide attempt were found for people with ASD who were unemployed. However, being employed did not have a protective effect. The authors speculate that people with ASD might suffer from workplace bullying or experience stress from poor finances and structural inequality.
This study has important implications for clinicians working with people with ASD, highlighting the need for tailored suicide prevention.