To our knowledge, no prospective, population-based study in existence examines predictive associations between early or middle childhood psychopathologic disorders and later completed suicides.
To study predictive associations between childhood psychopathologic disorders at the age of 8 years and later completed suicides and severe suicide attempts.
Birth cohort study of individuals 8 to 24 years old.
The sample includes 5302 Finnish people born in 1981 who were examined at the age of 8 years to gather information about psychopathologic conditions, school performance, and family demographics from parents, teachers, and children.
National register-based lifetime information about completed suicides and suicide attempts that prompted hospital admission.
Of all 24 deaths among males between 8 and 24 years of age, 13 were suicides, whereas of 16 deaths among females, only 2 were suicides. Fifty-four males and females (1%) had either completed suicide or made a serious suicide attempt, defined as a suicide attempt that prompted hospital admission. Of 27 males with completed or serious suicide attempts, 78% screened positive on parent or teacher Rutter scales at the age of 8 years, whereas of 27 females only 11% screened positive. Among males, completed or serious suicide attempt outcome was predicted at the age of 8 years by living in a nonintact family; psychological problems as reported by the primary teacher; or conduct, hyperkinetic, and emotional problems. However, self-reports of depressive symptoms at the age of 8 years did not predict suicide outcome. No predictive associations between the study variables measured at the age of 8 years and suicide outcome were found among females. Male suicide outcome was predicted most strongly by comorbid conduct and internalizing problems.
Most males who completed suicide and/or made serious suicide attempts in adolescence or early adulthood had psychiatric problems by the age of 8 years, indicating a trajectory that persists throughout their lives. However, female severe suicidality is not predicted by psychopathologic disorders at the age of 8 years. The results give additional support to the importance of early detection and treatment of psychiatric problems in males.