According to a new study conducted in Denmark, people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are at three times increased risk of suicide and suicide attempts than people without ASD.
The study, published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, aims at giving a realistic understanding of the increased incidence of suicides among autistic people than in the general population. It also identifies the various risk factors prompting them to attempt suicide.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a set of chronic neurodevelopmental disorders that interferes with a person's behaviour and ability to communicate. Unemployment, psychiatric disorders, and social disintegration commonly found in adults with ASD are also traditionally the reasons associated with suicidal behaviours.
The register data of more than six million people aged ten and above who lived in Denmark from 1995-2016 was analyzed in the research.
The rate of suicide attempts was found to be 266.8 per 100,000 persons diagnosed with ASD and 63.4 per 100,000 for persons not diagnosed with ASD.
Autistic girls and women are affected with a four-fold higher risk of suicide as compared to autistic men.
The risk factors of suicide in people with ASD were different from that of the general population. Social isolation, poor access to care, psychiatric comorbidity, limited problem-solving skills, not being in a relationship, and altered expectations of success are a few. Sometimes, education, exposure to the public and self-realization of one's limitations, if not handled accordingly, can also have negative impacts leading them to depression and anxiety.
The results procured from the study exemplify the need for a tailored suicide prevention program. Signs and symptoms of depression and suicide tendencies exhibited by people with ASD are different because of their challenges in communicating. Watching out for signs like lack of appetite, low energy, disordered sleep, pessimistic attitude, and efforts like early interventions to improve social skills of children and adults with ASD, preventing delays in the required treatment etc can be effective up to a great extent.