Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition consisting of difficulties in social communication, adaptation to unexpected change, heightened sensory sensitivity and restricted interests. There are many barriers to obtaining an autism diagnosis, such as knowledge of autism, availability of diagnostic services and funding.
In a new study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers found elevated autistic traits in people who die by suicide.
Results of the study
Studies have shown significantly increased risk of dying by suicide in autistic people compared with the general population.
Research has found that autism and autistic traits are over-represented in groups at risk for suicide. A high proportion of patients with depression (11%) and women with borderline personality disorder (15%) meet diagnostic criteria for co-occurring autism.
The study included a population from the UK. Through the coroners’ office, out of the 181 records included in the stage 1 analysis, we were able to invite next of kin of 115 people who died, who were in the UK and for whom contact details were available.
Through analysis of 372 coroners’ inquest records in two regions of England, there was evidence of autism and elevated autistic traits in 10.7% of those who died by suicide – 11 times higher than prevalence of autism in the UK general population similarly including previously unknown diagnoses of autism (1.1%).
Cassidy, S., et al. (2022). Autism and autistic traits in those who died by suicide in England. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1-9. doi:10.1192/bjp.2022.21