Adolescent Boys with ASD Have Nearly a 3-Fold Higher Risk for Self-Harm

June 20, 2022

Self-Harm Among Teens is a Strong Predictor for Future Suicidal Ideation

A longitudinal investigation in a non-clinical population examining the risk of hospitalization with self-harm for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was recently published in BMC Medicine. This British study linked school census data with routinely collected mental health information for four boroughs in South London. After analyzing the data, the authors discovered that boys on the spectrum ages 11-17 are at a nearly threefold higher risk of self-harm compared to boys of the same age without the disoder. The same association was not observed for girls in the same age range. The increased risk finding is important since self-harm among adolescents is one of the strongest predictors of later suicidal behavior. The study also discovered another three-fold increased risk of self-harm in adolescents with poor school attendance and a history of being in foster care. Furthermore, being excluded from school presented a 50% increased risk of self-harm. The research team believes their findings are an important step in developing prevention strategies for the vulnerable groups identified in their work. However, they point out that a limitation of their study is a small sample size of individuals who both self-harmed and had ASD. Subsequently, the team recommends further research to replicate their findings, including in other settings. In the end, the authors feel their study provides an example of how routinely collected public service data can be utilized to address important public health issues like self-harm risk and suicidal ideation. 

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