Low intelligence linked to suicide risk later in life

October 08, 2019

People with low scores on intelligence tests in adolescence run a higher risk of suicide and suicide attempt later in life. That is according to a study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden that followed almost 50,000 Swedish men from the 1970s until recently. The study is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.

Prior studies have linked low intelligence and low emotional control to an increased risk of suicide. This study adds to that body of research by looking at how the association between suicidal behavior in people with low intelligence and emotional control develops over a period of almost 40 years.

The study showed that the risk of suicide later in life remained high in people with low intelligence in their youth. The same stable negative correlation was not seen in people deemed to have low emotional control in their earlier years. For these people, the risk of suicide decreased over time.

"The most interesting aspect of this study is that the negative effect of low emotional stability is strongest in adolescence," says Alma Sörberg Wallin, psychologist and project coordinator at the Department of Public Health Sciences at Karolinska Institutet and one of the study's authors. "Among people in their 50s, the association between low emotional stability and suicide is much weaker. That adds a certain level of hope and supports the description of suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

To compare intelligence and emotional control with suicidal behavior, the researchers divided the men on a five-level scale that corresponded to IQ bands ranging from less than 82 to more than 126 and emotional control variables ranging from one (very low) to five (very high). They used death and hospital discharge registers to identify suicides and attempted suicides between 1973-2008.

The researchers found that people with the lowest measured intelligence were as much as six times more likely to attempt or die from suicide compared to those with the highest intelligence. Similarly, men with the least emotional control had an almost seven-fold higher risk of suicidal behavior than men in the highest category. For men with low IQ, the strong association remained over time whereas men with low emotional control in their adolescence seemed less vulnerable to suicide as they aged.

The mechanisms are not fully known, but previous findings show that people with lower intelligence typically face more socioeconomic adversity later in life.

"For example, intelligence is strongly linked to educational success, and without a high educational degree you are more likely to end up in a low socioeconomic position or become unemployed," says Nora Hansson Bittár, psychology student and the study's main author. "This highlights the need for support and preventive measures. No one should end up in such a vulnerable situation that suicide appears to be the only way out."
-end-
Publication: "How intelligence and emotional control are related to suicidal behavior across the life course," Hansson Bittár N, Falkstedt D, Sörberg Wallin A (2019). Psychological Medicine 1-7, October 9, 2019, DOI: 10.1017/S0033291719002423

Karolinska Institutet

Related Suicide Articles from Brightsurf:

Suicide prevention in COVID-19 era
COVID-19 presents a new and urgent opportunity to focus political will, federal investments, and global community on the vital imperative of suicide prevention.

Racial discrimination linked to suicide
New research findings from the University of Houston indicate that racial discrimination is so painful that it is linked to the ability to die by suicide, a presumed prerequisite for being able to take one's own life, and certain mental health tools - like reframing an incident - can help.

Factors associated with firearm suicide risk
Researchers compared the risk of suicide by firearm based on sociodemographic characteristics of US adults.

Suicide mortality and COVID-19
Reasons why U.S. suicide rates may rise in tandem with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic are explained in this article that also describes opportunities to expand research and care.

Media reports of celebrity suicide linked to increased suicide rates
Media reporting of suicide, especially celebrity suicides, is associated with increases in suicide in the general population, particularly by the same method as used by the celebrity, finds an analysis of the latest evidence published by The BMJ today.

More youth suicide found in poor communities across US
A study led by Jennifer Hoffmann, M.D., from Ann & Robert H.

BU study finds new factors linked to suicide
A new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers finds that physical illness and injury raises the risk of suicide in men but not women, along with a plethora of other insights into the complex factors that may increase a person's risk of suicide.

Investigating the full spectrum of suicide
A recent study published in Injury Prevention described a method for categorizing self-injury mortality (SIM) to help us better examine national trends for today's epidemics of suicide and drug-related deaths.

Between 16 and 18% of preadolescents have ideas of suicide
Thinking of taking one's own life (ideation), planning it, threatening to do it or even attempting to do it is regarded as suicidal behaviour.

Social networks and suicide prevention
Depression and mental health problems are increasing - and suicide and drug overdose rates are rising dramatically in the USA.

Read More: Suicide News and Suicide Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.