Parental Death and Suicide

September 16, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A large study in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland found that people who experienced the death of a parent before age 18 had an increased risk of suicide for at least the next 25 years. People who lost a parent to suicide as a child had three times the suicide risk of those who had not experienced such a loss. However, people who lost a parent by any cause as a child were at twice the risk of suicide as people who had not lost a parent.

The increased risk among people who lost a parent to suicide (the “bereaved group”) “tended to be particularly high for boys who had a mother who died, children who experienced parental death before reaching 6 years of age, and first-born children.” The parents of people in the bereaved group were more likely to be older, less educated, of lower income, and have psychiatric disorders than the parents of people in the nonbereaved group.

Guldin, M.-B., Li, J., Pedersen, H. S., Obel, C., Agerbo, E., Gissler, M., . . . Vestergaard, M. (2015). Incidence of suicide among persons who had a parent who died during their childhood: A population-based cohort study. JAMA Psychiatry72(12), 1227–1234.