According to a new study, teenagers — particularly boys — who try to attempt suicide or are close to someone who has attempted suicide are at a higher risk for heart disease in their 20s.
The findings of the study showed that young males had higher blood pressure and systemic low-grade inflammation if they had attempted suicide as a teenager.
On the other hand, young women were more likely to be overweight or obese as well as have high blood pressure if they were close to someone who tried to kill himself/herself.
“What we are seeing is that suicide attempts in adolescence — which are typically considered as a mental health problem — could also signal the potential for physical health problems into young adulthood,” said lead author Lilly Shanahan, assistant professor at University of North Carolina in the US.
The results of the study — published by the American Psychological Association — were found to be consistent when controlled for education, social and economic adversity and behavioural issues.
“Suicide attempts in teenage boys are less common than in teenage girls, but they may signal a more serious risk for later physical health problems,” Shanahan added. In addition, previous research has shown that many people face increased stigma, social isolation, unhealthy behaviours and fewer educational and job accomplishments. All of these factors — in addition to the actual suicide attempt itself — could contribute to future physical health risks, the researchers said.
“It is important to view suicide attempts as a marker for potential future health risks and not a cause and to keep in mind that those affected by their own or others’ suicide attempts may benefit from a dual focus on mental and physical healthcare,” Shanahan noted.
For the study, the team took a sample of approximately 8,000 US adolescents from a national study — who were first interviewed in grades 7-12 starting in 1994.
Close to 10 per cent of young people in the sample reported attempting suicide at least once and more than 40 per cent reported being aware of a family member or friends’ suicide attempt. Suicide attempts were measured four times over the next 13 years when the participants reached their mid-to-late 20s and early 30s.