People who have been exposed to parental domestic violence during their childhood are more likely to attempt suicide, say scientists, including one of Indian-origin.
A new study by the University of Toronto found the lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts among adults who had been exposed to chronic parental domestic violence during childhood was 17.3 per cent compared to 2.3 per cent among those without this childhood adversity.
“We had expected that the association between chronic parental domestic violence and later suicide attempts would be explained by childhood sexual or physical abuse, or by mental illness and substance abuse,” said Esme Fuller-Thomson, from the University of Toronto.
“However, even when we took these factors into account, those exposed to chronic parental domestic violence still had more than twice the odds of having attempted suicide,” said Fuller-Thomson.
However, the study examined a nationally representative sample of 22,559 community-dwelling Canadians, using data from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey.
In addition, parental domestic violence was defined as “chronic” if it had occurred more than ten times before the respondent was age 16.
“When domestic violence is chronic in a home, there is a risk of long term negative outcomes for the children, even when the children themselves are not abused. These chaotic home environments cast a long shadow,” said Fuller-Thomson.
“Social workers and health professionals must continue to work vigilantly to prevent domestic violence and to support survivors of this abuse and their children,” she said.
“Those who had been maltreated during their childhood were also more likely to have attempted suicide, with 16.9 per cent of those sexually abused and 12.4 per cent of those physically abuse having made at least one suicide attempt,” said Reshma Dhrodia, a recent graduate from the University of Toronto.
“A history of major depressive disorder quadrupled the odds of suicide attempts. A history of anxiety disorders, substance abuse and chronic pain approximately doubled the odds of suicide attempts” said Stephanie Baird, a social work doctoral student at the University of Toronto.
“These four factors accounted for only 10 per cent of the association between suicide attempts and parental domestic violence, but almost half of the association between suicide attempts and childhood sexual abuse or physical abuse,” said Baird.
“This suggests professionals working with survivors of childhood adversities should consider a wide range of interventions addressing mental illness, substance abuse and chronic pain,” she said.
However, the study was published in the journal Child: Care, Health and Development.