Risk of Suicide Doubled In Children Who Lose Parent

Dr. Mai-Britt Guldin PhD Department of Public Health Aarhus University

Dr. Gulden

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Mai-Britt Guldin PhD

Department of Public Health
Aarhus University 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Guldin: The background for this study is that death of a parent in childhood is experienced by 3-4% of children in Western societies, and we know such a loss is one of the most stressful and potentially harmful events in childhood. Therefore, we aimed to investigate how parental death may influence the long-term risk of suicide and how this risk differes by cause of parental death, age at loss, sex of child, socioeconomic factors and parental history of psychiatric illness.The sample size in this study is unparalleled by other studies on risk of suicide.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Guldin: The main findings were that in a population of 7.302,033 (in three Scandinavian countries), we identified 189,094 persons who lost a parent before the age of 18. Of these bereaved persons, 265 died from suicide. Compared to a control group of persons matched by age and sex, but who did not lose a parent before the age of 18, suicide was twice as common in the bereaved cohort (IRR = 2.02; 95% CI, 1.67-2.44). The risk remained high for at least 25 years of follow-up. The risk was particularly high for children who lost a parent due to suicide, but was also high for children who lost a parent due to other causes. The risk tended to be particularly high for boys who lost a mother and children losing a parent before the age of six.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Guldin: Clinicians and patients may profit from knowledge from this study because suicide after parental loss is preventable. Public health strategies should consider preventative initiatives on families with significant losses and history of suicidal behavior. On clinical strategy could be to monitor distress in bereaved children and provide individualized support to help highly distressed children cope with bereavement.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Guldin: The recommendation for future research is a continued effort to identify persons at high risk after bereavement as preventive efforts are challenged by highly complex interactions and long-term risk profiles. The underlying causal mechanisms for adverse outcomes after bereavement remain unknown and need further investigation, whether it may be attributed to shared genetic dispositions, environmental factors, social changes and/or psychological stress.


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Dr. Mai-Britt Guldin PhD (2015). Risk of Suicide Doubled In Children Who Lose Parent 

Last Updated on November 13, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD