Suicide linked to genetic factors in youths


A recent study found suicide attempts and suicide ideation were more common in children with genetic factors linked to suicide attempts.

Suicide attempts (SAs) and suicide ideation (SI) may be linked to genetic factors that persist through an individual’s lifespan, according to a recent study.

Suicide is the cause of over 1% of deaths in the United States annually, with suicide among preadolescents seeing a steady incline since 2010. SI among youths is as high as 15%, while SAs have reached over 2%. These suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) lack studies on their risk factor, making prevention and intervention difficult.

In the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, investigators gathered data from 11,878 children in the United States aged 9 to 10 years. The data came from a suicide survey and was collected for 3 consecutive years. Phenotypic and genome-wide genetic data of the participants was gathered as well.

In the study, children who reported suicide attempts that were actualized, interrupted, or aborted who classified as SAs. Participants with SI but no reported SAs were categorized into an SI category. Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) were classified for participants based on genome-wide associationand controls of European ancestry.

SA PRSs were commonly associated with lifetime SAs in children of European ancestry. When accounting for children’s sociodemographic backgrounds, psychopathology symptoms, parental histories of suicide and mental health, and PRSs for major depression disorder (MDD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), these associations remained. 

Genetic risk of SAs was most often partially mediated by depressive mood and aggressive behavior, along with behavioral problems such as attention problems, rule-breaking behavior, and social problems. As a whole, SA lifetime prevalence tripled from baseline after 2 years.

The data associated common genetic variants which increased risk of SAs with SAs in children. Associations were independent of ADHD and MDD genetic risk. When accounting for clinical, sociodemographic, and family risk factors of suicide, associations remained significant.

This study made substantial progress on the study of suicide genetics in children. As STBs rise in youths, investigators noted the importance of associations between genetic risk for SAs and SAs in young children.


Lee PH, Doyle AE, Silberstein M, Jung J, Liu R, Perlis RH, et al. Associations between genetic risk for adult suicide attempt and suicidal behaviors in young children in the us. JAMA Psychiatry. 2022. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2022.2379

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