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Home > Research Articles > Childhood physical abuse increases suicide threat among depressed women

Health Media Ltd

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Health Media Ltd - May 19, 2003

The findings come from a study of 347 community-based women aged between 15 and 64 years, who met criteria for major depressive disorder.

Dr Angela McHolm and colleagues from the Canadian Centre for Studies of Children at Risk in Hamilton, Ontario, explained that, although the link between suicidality and depression was well established, most depressed individuals did not display suicidal behaviour.

The researchers, therefore, chose to examine the relationship between suicidality and a range of variables, including childhood physical abuse, individual and familial psychiatric history and socio-demographic factors.

Subjects were assessed using a modified version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Childhood physical abuse history was obtained through the Child Maltreatment History Self-Report questionnaire.

Reporting in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the researchers found that 24 per cent of the women said that they had made a suicide attempt and 56 per cent had experienced suicidal thoughts.

A history of suicide attempt was most strongly related to the number of comorbid psychiatric disorders, whereas suicidal ideation was most strongly related to a history of childhood physical abuse.

The researchers write, "Given the established links between depression and suicidality, it is important for clinicians to be able to assess for risk of these negative sequelae and to recognise the links with childhood experiences."

They add that, without greater insight into the factors that influence suicide risk, doctors will continue to be restricted in their ability to identify high-risk individuals accurately.

Reference: McHolm et al, American Journal of Psychiatry 2003;160:933-938

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HMG Worldwide 2003