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: Women and men military veterans, childhood adversity and alcohol and drug use

Related Stories

Women and men military veterans, childhood adversity and alcohol and drug use

January 11, 2018
Results of a national study led by public health scientist Elizabeth Evans at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with others at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the University of California, Los Angeles, ...

How we discovered the link between childhood trauma, a faulty stress response and suicide risk in later life

January 9, 2018
When people experience stress, the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys release a steroid hormone called cortisol. However, our latest study shows that people who have experienced high levels of trauma in childhood, ...

Depression in black adolescents requires different treatment

January 5, 2018
Black adolescents express depressive symptoms differently than people from other age and racial groups, requiring that clinicians take this into account when developing treatment plans, according to a new study led by a Rutgers ...

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.

Dating violence tied to spankings in childhood

December 5, 2017
(HealthDay)— Spanking your child may have unintended consequences as he or she forges adult romantic relationships years later, a new study suggests.

Childhood abuse raises drug users' suicide risk

July 18, 2013
For health professionals, the message from a new study in the American Journal of Public Health is clear: Asking patients about a history of childhood abuse can directly help assess their risk of attempting suicide. The evidence, ...

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

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.