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Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide, but the precise effect of childhood adversities as risk factors for the onset and persistence of suicidal behaviour (suicide ideation, plans and attempts) are not well understood.
To examine the associations between childhood adversities as risk factors for the onset and persistence of suicidal behaviour across 21 countries worldwide.
Respondents from nationally representative samples (η = 55 299) were interviewed regarding childhood adversities that occurred before the age of 18 years and lifetime suicidal behaviour.
Childhood adversities were associated with an increased risk of suicide attempt and ideation in both bivariate and multivariate models (odds ratio range 1.2–5.7). The risk increased with the number of adversities experienced, but at a decreasing rate. Sexual and physical abuse were consistently the strongest risk factors for both the onset and persistence of suicidal behaviour, especially during adolescence. Associations remained similar after additional adjustment for respondents' lifetime mental disorder status.
Childhood adversities (especially intrusive or aggressive adversities) are powerful predictors of the onset and persistence of suicidal behaviours.
Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide; however, the prevalence and risk factors for the immediate precursors to suicide – suicidal ideation, plans and attempts – are not well-known, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
To report on the prevalence and risk factors for suicidal behaviours across 17 countries.
A total of 84 850 adults were interviewed regarding suicidal behaviours and socio-demographic and psychiatric risk factors.
The cross-national lifetime prevalence of suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts is 9.2% (s.e.=0.1), 3.1% (s.e.=0.1), and 2.7% (s.e.=0.1). Across all countries, 60% of transitions from ideation to plan and attempt occur within the first year after ideation onset. Consistent cross-national risk factors included being female, younger, less educated, unmarried and having a mental disorder. Interestingly, the strongest diagnostic risk factors were mood disorders in high-income countries but impulse control disorders in low- and middle-income countries.
There is cross-national variability in the prevalence of suicidal behaviours, but strong consistency in the characteristics and risk factors for these behaviours. These findings have significant implications for the prediction and prevention of suicidal behaviours.
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