Men sexually abused in childhood 10 times more likely to contemplate suicide

December 19, 2008

Sexual abuse in childhood increases the risk of suicide in men by up to ten times, say researchers from the University of Bath. A recent study of Australian men has found that those who were sexually abused as children are more likely than women to contemplate taking their own lives.

Whilst gender and mental health problems are the most important risk factors for contemplating suicide, it is increasingly acknowledged that traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual abuse may be a significant risk factor.

Dr Patrick O'Leary and Professor Nick Gould from the University's Department of Social & Policy Sciences conducted a series of surveys and face-to-face interviews with men in a study funded by the University of South Australia. The findings have been published online in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Social Work.

They found that men who were sexually abused as children were up to ten times more likely to have suicidal tendencies; many of these men had not been clinically diagnosed as depressed.

Dr O'Leary said: "Childhood sexual abuse is an under-recognised problem in men - most of the studies exploring the link with suicide have been in women.

"Men are particularly vulnerable because they don't like to talk to others about their problems. It's difficult for anyone to come to terms with traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual abuse, but for men the stigma is worse because they don't tend to confide in their friends as much.

"Many suffer feelings of failure and isolation and think that it is a sign of weakness to discuss their past abuse with others. Men also tend to visit their doctors less frequently, so those who are at risk of suicide often slip under the radar of the healthcare system.

"Men are particularly vulnerable to suicide and are three and a half times more likely than women to end their own lives, with more than 2,000 men dying as a result of suicide in the UK each year. However it is estimated that for every suicide, there are between 20 and 25 failed attempts.

"We carried out the study in Australia, which shares a similar 'stiff upper lip' culture that we see in the UK. We're planning to do our next study in the UK to see if there are any differences."

Dr O'Leary suggested that lives could be potentially saved if abuse victims are identified earlier.

He explained: "The abuse that these men have suffered as children often sees them attempting to cope by suppressing the experience through substance abuse, alcohol abuse and obsessive behaviour, with many ending up in the criminal justice system.

"Greater awareness in the healthcare and criminal justice systems will help identify those who are at risk and give them treatment before it is too late."

Source: University of Bath

Explore further: Childhood spankings can lead to adult mental health problems

Related Stories

Childhood spankings can lead to adult mental health problems

November 2, 2017
Getting spanked as a child can lead to a host of mental health problems in adulthood, say University of Michigan researchers.

Child abuse affects brain wiring

September 25, 2017
Researchers from the McGill Group for Suicide Studies, based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University's Department of Psychiatry, have just published research in the American Journal of Psychiatry ...

Why teen suicide is on the rise

September 8, 2017
Every 40 seconds, another human life is taken by suicide, according to World Health Organization data.

Dissociative identity disorder exists and is the result of childhood trauma

October 5, 2017
Once known as multiple personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder remains one of the most intriguing but poorly understood mental illnesses. Research and clinical experience indicate people diagnosed with the condition ...

Link between childhood in care and mums who have babies removed by the courts

October 3, 2017
A study has found a high number of women, who repeatedly appear before the family courts and lose many children into public care or adoption because of child protection concerns, have been in care themselves.

Assessment tools, relationships key to addressing child trauma

September 8, 2017
Two new studies led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggest that the bevy of tools available to assess and address childhood adversity and trauma, as well as the interconnected webs of ...

Recommended for you

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

Exercising and eating well are greater contributors to health than standing at work

November 21, 2017
By now you've probably heard the edict from the health community: Sitting is the new smoking. Perhaps you've converted to a standing desk, or maybe you have a reminder on your phone to get up once an hour and walk around ...

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

0 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.