A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that suicide attempt (SA) risk among children may have a genetic component that is affected by environmental factors.
Investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School sourced data for this study from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) and the National Institute of Mental Health Data Archive databases. A case-control analysis was performed to assess whether there may be genetic risk for SA or ideation among children aged 9 to 10 years of age.
The ABCD database comprised 3974 controls, 333 children with suicidal ideation, and 37 with SA. The cohorts included children with a mean age of 9.88 to 9.94 years, 52.42% to 58.56% were boys, 3.86% to 17.14% lived in poverty, and 5.28% to 29.73% had a parental history of suicide, respectively.
The effect sizes of the polygenetic risk score (PRS) for SA among the children with SA ranged between 1.34 and 1.43, increasing with follow-up time, as SA events increased during the follow-up. The PRS for SA among the suicidal ideation cohort was not significant at any time point.
The relationship between SA PRS and SA remained significant after correcting for major depressive disorder (MDD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder PRSs.
Significant mediators between SA PRS and SA outcomes included depressive mood (odds ratio [OR], 2.46; P <2×10-16), thought problems (OR, 2; P <2×10-16), anxious depression (OR, 1.94; P <2×10-16), aggression (OR, 1.88; P =1.43×10-10), frustration (OR, 1.84; P =2.81×10-8), social problems (OR, 1.82; P <2×10-16), rule-breaking behavior (OR, 1.76; P <2×10-16), aggressive behavior (OR, 1.72; P =3.54×10-16), withdrawn depression (OR, 1.72; P =1.74×10-13), fear (OR, 1.71; P =2.16×10-7), attention problems (OR, 1.66; P =2.33×10-12), somatic complaints (OR, 1.63; P =1.29×10-7), inhibitory control (OR, 1.39; P =1.56×10-3), high-intensive pleasure or surgency (OR, 0.69; P =2.35×10-4), and affiliation temperament (OR, 0.74; P =2.91×10-3).
In the logistic regression analysis, SA risk was associated with having a parent without a college education (OR, 4.66; P =4.10×10-2), having a single parent (OR, 2.2; P =6.74×10-3), depressive mood (OR, 1.47; P =8.26×10-3), high-intensity pleasure or surgency (OR, 1.41; P =7.57×10-3), SA PRS (OR, 1.4; P =1.07×10-2), MDD PRS (OR, 1.34; P =4.10×10-2), and anxious depression (OR, 1.3; P =2.40×10-2).
The major limitation of this study was that children were recruited at 9 to 10 years of age and there was only follow-up data for 2 years. These findings may not be generalizable for children of other ages.
Study authors concluded, “Our study demonstrates robust associations between genetic risk for SAs and SAs in young children and potential mediators of this genetic risk. Considering the increasing rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in youth, as observed in the ABCD cohort, further research is warranted to dissect the complex interplay of genetic and environmental risk factors and to set the stage for improved suicide prevention and intervention efforts.”
Disclosure: Multiple authors declared affiliations with industry. Please refer to the original article for a full list of disclosures.
Lee PH, Doyle AE, Silberstein M, et al. Associations between genetic risk for adult suicide attempt and suicidal behaviors in young children in the US. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online August 31, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2022.2379