Physical abuse may raise risk of suicidal thoughts

The study, published online this month in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, found that approximately one-third of adults who were physically abused in childhood had seriously considered taking their own life. These rates were five times higher than adults who were not physically abused in childhood. The findings suggest that children exposed to physical abuse may be at greater risk for suicidal behaviours in adulthood.

Investigators examined gender specific differences among a sample of 6,642 adults, of whom 7.7 per cent reported that they had been physically abused before the age of 18. They found that a strong association between childhood physical abuse and subsequent suicidal behaviours remained even after taking into account other known risk factors, such as adverse childhood conditions, health behaviours and psycho-social stressors.

"This research provides important new knowledge about the enduring effects of abuse in childhood," says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Chair at University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Department of Family and Community Medicine. "The findings have important for healthcare providers, suggesting the need to screen for among adults who have experienced childhood physical abuse and highlighting the importance of providing to survivors."

The findings open up further areas of research. Previous studies have theorized that to high levels of pain and fear through childhood abuse may contribute to adults' ability to inflict injury or harm on themselves. Recent research suggests suicide may have developmental origins relating to abuse – that physical or sexual abuse may lead to changes in the stress reponse in the brain which increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior .

Co-author Tobi Baker, a former graduate student at the University of Toronto, notes that "one important avenue for future research is to investigate the bio-psycho-social mechanisms through which childhood physical abuse may translate into suicidal behaviours."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Childhood physical abuse linked to peptic ulcers

Feb 10, 2011

Victims of childhood physical abuse are more than twice as likely to develop ulcers than people who were not abused as children, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto.

Parental divorce linked to suicidal thoughts

Jan 19, 2011

Adult children of divorce are more likely to have seriously considered suicide than their peers from intact families, suggests new research from the University of Toronto

Recommended for you

Mothers don't speak so clearly to their babies

Jan 23, 2015

People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like "tummy". While we might be inclined to think that we ...

Explainer: What is sexual fluidity?

Jan 23, 2015

Sexual preferences are not set in stone and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation the individual is in. This has been described as sexual fluidity. For example, if someone identifies as heterosexual but th ...

Lucky charms: When are superstitions used most?

Jan 23, 2015

It might be a lucky pair of socks, or a piece of jewelry; whatever the item, many people turn to a superstition or lucky charm to help achieve a goal. For instance, you used a specific avatar to win a game and now you see ...

Low-income boys fare worse in wealth's shadow

Jan 22, 2015

Low-income boys fare worse, not better, when they grow up alongside more affluent neighbors, according to new findings from Duke University. In fact, the greater the economic gap between the boys and their neighbors, the ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.