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Jun 26, 2014 01:48 AM EDT

Asperger Syndrome Triggers Suicidal Thoughts in Patients, Study

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People diagnosed with Asperger syndrome are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts than those with psychosis, according to a University of Cambridge study.

For the study, researchers analysed data of 374 individuals (256 were men), who were diagnosed with the medical condition as adults between 2004 and 2013 at the Cambridge Lifetime Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS) clinic in Cambridge, U.K.

The researchers found that Asperger Syndrome patients faced 66 percent higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts as compared to a control group (17 percent) and those with psychosis (59 percent). The information on suicidal behavior in psychosis patients was taken from other databases.

"Our findings confirm anecdotal reports that adults with Asperger Syndrome have a significantly higher risk of suicide in comparison to other clinical groups, and that depression is a key risk factor in this," said Dr Sarah Cassidy, Autism Research Centre in a statement.

The researchers also found that 66 percent or about two-third of Asperger syndrome participants thought about committing suicide, while a third or 35 percent had attempted suicide. They said that people with depression plus Asperger syndrome were four times more likely than others to contemplate about suicide and twice more likely to plan suicide attempt.

"Adults with Asperger Syndrome often suffer with secondary depression due to social isolation, loneliness, social exclusion, lack of community services, under-achievement, and unemployment. Their depression and risk of suicide are preventable with the appropriate support," said Simon Baron-Cohen, of the Autism Research Centre.

Baron-Cohen said that the findings highlight the importance of high quality services to avert drastic measures by Asperger syndrome patients.

In the study, the researchers also identified a secondary risk factor for suicidal thoughts in the group - higher level of autistic traits.

The finding is published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

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