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Risk markers for suicidality in autistic adults

Cassidy, Sarah; Bradley, Louise; Shaw, Rebecca; Baron-Cohen, Simon


Louise Bradley

Rebecca Shaw

Simon Baron-Cohen


Background: Research has shown high rates of suicidality in Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC), but there is lack of research into why this is the case. Many common experiences of autistic adults, such as depression or unemployment, overlap with known risk markers for suicide in the general population. However, it is unknown whether there are risk markers unique to ASC that require new tailored suicide prevention strategies.
Methods: Through consultation with a steering group of autistic adults, a survey was developed aiming to identify unique risk markers for suicidality in this group. The survey measured suicidality (SBQ-R); non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI-AT); mental health problems; unmet support needs; employment; satisfaction with living arrangements; self-reported autistic traits (AQ); delay in ASC diagnosis; and ‘camouflaging’ ASC.
Participants: 164 autistic adults (65 male, 99 female), and 169 general population adults (54 male, 115 female) completed the survey online.
Results: A majority of autistic adults (72%) scored above the recommended psychiatric cut off for suicide risk on the SBQ-R; significantly higher than general population (GP) adults (33%). After statistically controlling for a range of demographics and diagnoses: ASC diagnosis and self-reported autistic traits in the general population significantly predicted suicidality. In autistic adults, non-suicidal self-injury, ‘camouflaging’, and number of unmet support needs significantly predicted suicidality.
Conclusions: Results confirm previously reported high rates of suicidality in ASC, and demonstrate that ASC diagnosis, and self-reported autistic traits in the general population are independent risk markers for suicidality. This suggests there are unique factors associated.


Cassidy, S., Bradley, L., Shaw, R., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2018). Risk markers for suicidality in autistic adults. Molecular Autism, 9, 1-14.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 22, 2018
Online Publication Date Jul 31, 2018
Publication Date Jul 31, 2018
Deposit Date Jul 24, 2018
Publicly Available Date Sep 1, 2018
Journal Molecular Autism
Electronic ISSN 2040-2392
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Article Number 42
Pages 1-14
Keywords Autism Spectrum Condition; Autistic traits; Suicidality; Non-Suicidal Self-Injury; NSSI; SBQ-R; NSSI-AT; Risk markers; Mental health; Depression; Anxiety.
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