Death of a parent in childhood associated with increased suicide risk

November 11, 2015

The death of a parent in childhood was associated with a long-term risk of suicide in a study of children from three Scandinavian countries who were followed for up to 40 years, according to an article published online by JAMA Psychiatry.

In Western societies, 3 percent to 4 percent of children experience the death of a parent and it is one of the most stressful and potentially harmful life events in childhood. While most children and adolescents adapt to the loss, others develop preventable social and psychological problems.

Mai-Britt Guldin, Ph.D., of Aarhus University, Denmark, and colleagues used nationwide register data from 1968 to 2008 in Denmark, Sweden and Finland (for a total of 7.3 million individuals) to identify 189,094 children (2.6 percent) who had a parent die before the child turned 18 (the bereaved group). For comparison, the authors matched those bereaved children with 10 other children (n=1.89 million children) who did not have a parent die to examine the long-term risks of suicide after parental death (the reference group). Both groups were followed for up to 40 years.

Authors report 265 individuals from the bereaved group (0.14 percent) who lost a parent during childhood and 1,342 individuals from the reference group (0.07 percent) who did not lose a parent during childhood died from suicide during follow-up. During 25 years of follow-up, the absolute risk of suicide was 4 in 1,000 persons for boys who experienced parental death in childhood and 2 in 1,000 persons for girls. The risk for suicide was high for children whose parent died of suicide but also high for children whose parent died of other causes, according to the results.

The authors note their register-based study had no information on important risk factors including genetic factors, social network and family lifestyle factors.

"Our study points to the early mitigation of distress to reduce the risk of suicidal behavior among children who had a parent who died during childhood," the study concludes.
(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online November 11, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2094. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor's Note: The study includes funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Media Advisory: To contact corresponding author Mai-Britt Guldin, Ph.D., email

The JAMA Network Journals

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 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