According to a new study, at the University of Texas, mental illness appears to be the strongest risk factor for suicide in young people. This despite earlier studies that suggest socioeconomic factors play a major role.
Researchers in Denmark set out to determine the risk of suicide in young people based on family and individual psychiatric and socioeconomic factors. They identified 500 cases of suicide that took place from 1980 to 1995 in people between ages 11 and 22 years. Each case was matched to a random sample of 50 people of the same age and gender who served as controls.
Findings from the study show a strong association between suicide and admission to a hospital for mental illness. Ten percent of the young people who had committed suicide had been admitted for mental illness. According to researchers, suicide is more likely to occur among young people who have had a parent commit suicide, those whose mother died early, or those who have a history of mental illness in the family, including the individual, their parents or their siblings. The study also shows males are three and a half times more likely to commit suicide than females and the number of suicides increases similarly with age in both sexes.
Factors considered less significant in determining suicide are dysfunctional family backgrounds and socioeconomic factors, such as unemployment, low income, or less schooling. Researchers conclude that an important target in the prevention of suicide in young people would be the early recognition and treatment of mental illness. Improved psycho pathological assessment and treatment after discharge from psychiatric facilities could therefore help decrease suicide rates.