Adults with Asperger Syndrome likelier to have suicidal thoughts than others: Lancet

Washington: Researchers have claimed that 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.

The study surveyed 374 individuals (256 men and 118 women) diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome as adults between 2004 and 2013 at the Cambridge Lifetime Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS) clinic in Cambridge UK.

It revealed a significantly higher rate of suicidal ideation among adults with Asperger Syndrome (66 per cent), compared with the rate found in the general population (17 per cent), and patients with psychosis (59 per cent) 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 per cent) of adults with Asperger Syndrome had contemplated suicide and a third (35 per cent) 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 suicidal thoughts, 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.

Dr Cassidy said their 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.

The study has been published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

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