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What Depressive Symptoms and Disorders Are Linked to Adolescent Suicide?

Posted Oct 02 2008 6:16pm

A study reported in the April 2008 issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders examines the role of depressive symptoms and disorders as potential predictors of suicidal behaviour in adolescents. The authors used a representative sample of 2464 Norwegian school students (average age 13.7 years) who were initally tested (T1).  These same subjects were followed up and reassessed a year later (T2). All subjects who scored significantly high on the depresson questionnaire at the one year mark (T2) were matched with low- or middle-scoring respondents according to age and gender.  A subset of 345 subjects were diagnostically assessed by face-to-face interviews (mean age=14.9 years) and then reassessed after five years (T3) using telephone interviews and questionnaires. There were 265 subjects tested with a participation rate of 76.9%. The results indicated that cognitive symptoms were predominant among suicide attempters, regardless of age. Among younger adolescents, suicidal thoughts and acts of self-harm without suicidal intent were associated with suicidal acts. Recurrent thoughts about death, hopelessness, disturbed concentration and middle insomnia were associated with suicidal acts among older adolescents. Perceived worthlessness by the age of 15 was a significant predictor of suicidal acts between 15 to 20 years.  Major depression was significantly associated with suicidal acts among younger adolescents, while dysthymia by the age of 15 years remained a significant predictor of suicidal acts between 15 to 20 years, even when controlling for depressive symptoms. The authors conclude that acts of self-harm without suicidal intent, middle insomnia, cognitive depressive symptoms and a formal psychiatric diagnosis of any depressive disorder should alert professionals in the risk assessment of suicidal adolescents.

Click here for the abstract.

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