Parents who attempt suicide might be increasing the chances their children will do the same later, a study in JAMA Psychology recently reported.
The study, released Dec. 30, followed 701 people between ages 10 and 50 whose parents had mood disorders. Study participants were followed between 1997 and 2012, for about six years each, according to a Reuters report on the study. Participants were the children of 334 people with mood disorders —191 of whom had attempted suicide.
Researchers discovered 6% of participants had attempted suicide, while 4% had made an attempt while enrolled in the study. The research team included David A. Brent of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“What that really means is that there is still part of this [family] transmission that we haven’t figured out,” Brent said in the Reuters article.
According to the CDC, suicide is a significant issue in the U.S., with 39,518 such cases in 2011. More than 483,586 people with self-inflicted injuries were treated in the country’s EDs in 2012, the CDC reported. Risk factors for suicide according to the CDC include previous suicide attempts, history of depression or other mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, family history of suicide or violence, physical illness and feeling alone.
Although previous studies have suggested the possibility of a family history of mood disorders as a factor in suicide attempts, researchers noted those studies followed participants for only one to two years.
Many people who have suicidal thoughts or make suicidal attempts never seek help, according to the CDC. In 2011, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, as well as 25- to 34-year olds, the CDC reported. It is fourth among 35-to 54-year-olds and eighth among 55- to 64-year-olds.
“I think it’s just a wakeup call,” Brent said in the Reuters report. “Just like if you have a family history of breast cancer or colon cancer. You’d be vigilant of that.”