Tuesday, August 31, 2021

People With Disabilities at Elevated Risk of Suicidal Behavior, Study Suggests

People with disabilities appear to be significantly more likely to think about, plan, and/or attempt suicide than people without disabilities, according to a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Individuals with multiple disabilities were found to be at a particularly heightened risk of suicidal behavior.

The findings highlight the need to consider functional disability when implementing suicide prevention strategies, “particularly the presence of complex activity limitations or multiple disabilities,” wrote Nicole M. Marlow, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., of the University of Florida and colleagues.

Marlow and colleagues analyzed data collected as part of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2019. The final sample included 198,640 U.S. adults who had answered survey questions regarding the presence or absence of any suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts during the 12 months prior to the survey. These respondents also answered six questions about the presence or absence of functional disabilities.

The researchers categorized the respondents into seven groups based on their reported functional disability type; these groups included those with no functional disability, hearing limitation only, vision limitation only, cognitive limitation only, mobility limitation only, complex activity limitation only, and ≥2 limitations. The researchers also categorized respondents into six groups based on the number of disabilities they reported (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or ≥5 limitations)

Overall, 19.8% of respondents reported any disability. People with any disability were found to be more than twice as likely to report suicidal ideation, suicide planning without attempt, and suicide attempt compared with people without disabilities. Among disability categories, individuals with a cognitive limitation or complex activity limitation had the highest rates of suicidal behaviors. Additional analysis revealed that those with ≥5 limitations were nearly four times as likely to report suicidal ideation, more than six times as likely to report suicide planning without attempt, and more than eight times as likely to report a suicide attempt compared with people without a disability.

“Because many disability types tend to be associated with an increase in prevalence as well as severity with aging, the results of this study may underestimate the extent to which suicide-related outcomes reduce quality of life over time,” Marlow and colleagues wrote. “Future research should examine how functional disability is associated with suicide-related outcomes over time.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric Services article “Predictors of Mental Health Crises Among Individuals With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Enrolled in the START Program.”

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