Adults with Asperger Syndrome at significantly higher risk of suicidal thoughts than the general population

June 25, 2014, Lancet

Adults with the autism spectrum condition known as Asperger Syndrome are nine times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts than people from the UK general population, according to the first large-scale clinical study of its kind, published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The study surveyed 374 individuals (256 men and 118 women) diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome as between 2004 and 2013 at the Cambridge Lifetime Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS) clinic in Cambridge UK. It revealed a significantly higher rate of among adults with Asperger Syndrome (66%), compared with the rate found in the general population (17%), and patients with psychosis (59%) taken from other data sources.

The research, led by Dr Sarah Cassidy and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, from the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, and the CLASS clinic in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), found that two-thirds (66%) of adults with Asperger Syndrome had contemplated and a third (35%) had planned or attempted suicide during their lifetime. Suicidal thoughts and behaviours were significantly more common in adults with Asperger Syndrome and a history of depression.

Among adults with Asperger Syndrome, those with depression were four times more likely to experience , and twice as likely to plan or attempt suicide, compared to individuals with Asperger Syndrome but without a history of depression. A second risk factor for suicide plans or attempts was a higher level of autistic traits.

"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", said Dr Cassidy.

According to Professor Baron-Cohen, "Adults with Asperger Syndrome often suffer with secondary depression due to social isolation, loneliness, social exclusion, lack of community services, under-achievement, and unemployment. Their 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. "

Autism spectrum conditions are a group of developmental brain conditions that cause difficulties in communication and social interaction, alongside the presence of unusually narrow interests and difficulties in adapting to change. In Asperger Syndrome, people show the key symptoms but without delayed language or intellectual disability. In the UK, one in 100 people (around 700 000) has an autism spectrum condition.

Explore further: Study confirms a gene linked to Asperger Syndrome and empathy

Related Stories

Study confirms a gene linked to Asperger Syndrome and empathy

December 17, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists have confirmed that variations in a particular gene play a key role in the autism spectrum condition known as Asperger Syndrome. They have also found that variations in the same gene are also ...

Experts: No link between Asperger's, violence

December 16, 2012
(AP)—While an official has said that the 20-year-old gunman in the Connecticut school shooting had Asperger's syndrome, experts say there is no connection between the disorder and violence.

Effects of Asperger's syndrome noticeable in babies

June 28, 2011
People with Asperger syndrome have problems with social interaction and attentiveness, and are also sensitive to noise and light. Several of these characteristics were evident to parents during their child's first two years, ...

Autism diagnoses may decrease with new criteria

February 11, 2014
The number of children diagnosed with autism will likely decline in the coming years, according to researchers who have reassessed population data and found a slight drop in prevalence based on new diagnostic criteria.

Rising awareness may explain spike in autism diagnoses

March 25, 2014
Young boys continue to have the highest rate of autism diagnoses, but Danish doctors are diagnosing more girls, teenagers and adults with the disorder than they did in the mid-1990s. That's the finding from a 16-year study ...

The level and nature of autistic intelligence II: What about Asperger Syndrome?

September 28, 2011
Autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger syndrome, have generally been associated with uneven intellectual profiles and impairment, but according to a new study of Asperger individuals published in the online journal ...

Recommended for you

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

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.