-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, June 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Adults with the
milder form of autism known as Asperger syndrome are much more
likely to think about and attempt suicide than those in the general
population, a new British study suggests.
The survey of 374 British adults with Asperger syndrome found
that 66 percent reported having suicidal thoughts and 35 percent
had planned or attempted suicide. Suicidal thoughts were much more
common among those with a history of depression, the authors
In comparison, rates of suicidal thoughts were 17 percent in the
general population of U.K. adults and 59 percent of patients with
psychosis, according to the study published June 24 in
The Lancet Psychiatry.
Among adults with Asperger syndrome, those with depression were
four times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and twice as
likely to plan or attempt suicide, compared to those without
depression, the investigators found.
The study also found that adults with more severe autism
symptoms were more likely to plan or attempt suicide.
"Our findings confirm anecdotal reports that adults with Asperger syndrome have a significantly higher risk of suicide in comparison to other clinical groups, and that depression is a key risk factor in this," study co-leader Dr. Sarah Cassidy, of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, said in a journal news release.
And, study co-leader Simon Baron-Cohen, also of Cambridge,
added, "Adults with Asperger syndrome often suffer with secondary
depression due to social isolation, loneliness, social exclusion,
lack of community services, under-achievement and
However, Baron-Cohen believes that "their depression and risk of
suicide are preventable with the appropriate support. This study
should be a wake-up call for the urgent need for high-quality
services, to prevent the tragic waste of even a single life," he
said in the news release.
Two experts in the United States weren't surprised by the
Dr. Melissa Nishawala is assistant professor at the Child Study
Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. She said the
new study supports "something we have known clinically for quite
some time: bright, verbal individuals with autism spectrum disorder
(ASD), commonly described as Asperger syndrome, have a much higher
rate of depression, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts than
peers who are not on the autism spectrum."
Nishawala agreed with Baron-Cohen that the finding "underscores
the unmet need for increased support and resources for people with
ASD at each developmental stage from childhood through
Dr. Alexander Kolevzon, clinical director of the Seaver Autism
Research Center at Mount Sinai Hospital, agreed. He said the study
"will likely have an impact on patient care by raising clinical
suspicion for suicidality [in patients with Asperger syndrome] and
highlighting the need for treatment and close monitoring."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
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