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The British Journal of Psychiatry
Year: 2010  |  Volume: 197  |  Issue: 1  |  Page No.: 20 - 27

Childhood adversities as risk factors for onset and persistence of suicidal behaviour

R Bruffaerts, K Demyttenaere, G Borges, J. M Haro, W. T Chiu, I Hwang, E. G Karam, R. C Kessler, N Sampson, J Alonso, L. H Andrade, M Angermeyer, C Benjet, E Bromet, G de Girolamo, R de Graaf, S Florescu, O Gureje, I Horiguchi, C Hu, V Kovess, D Levinson, J Posada Villa, R Sagar, K Scott, A Tsang, S. M Vassilev, D. R Williams and M. K. Nock    



Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide, but the precise effect of childhood adversities as risk factors for the onset and persistence of suicidal behaviour (suicide ideation, plans and attempts) are not well understood.


To examine the associations between childhood adversities as risk factors for the onset and persistence of suicidal behaviour across 21 countries worldwide.


Respondents from nationally representative samples (n = 55 299) were interviewed regarding childhood adversities that occurred before the age of 18 years and lifetime suicidal behaviour.


Childhood adversities were associated with an increased risk of suicide attempt and ideation in both bivariate and multivariate models (odds ratio range 1.2–5.7). The risk increased with the number of adversities experienced, but at a decreasing rate. Sexual and physical abuse were consistently the strongest risk factors for both the onset and persistence of suicidal behaviour, especially during adolescence. Associations remained similar after additional adjustment for respondents’ lifetime mental disorder status.


Childhood adversities (especially intrusive or aggressive adversities) are powerful predictors of the onset and persistence of suicidal behaviours.

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