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Research Review

Moving Associated With Risk of Suicide Among Children

Danish children who move frequently appear to have an increased risk of attempted or completed suicide between the ages of 11 and 17, according to a report in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

“Whatever inspires the move, such experiences during childhood may be traumatic or psychologically distressing and, therefore, may affect a child’s physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being,” the authors wrote. “Some children have difficulties coping with the change and may exhibit their distress as suicidal behavior, the last-resort response to the hardship and stress.”

Ping Qin, PhD, MD, and colleagues at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, used data from Danish national registries to identify all children born between 1978 and 1995. Between 11 and 17 years of age, 4,160 of these children attempted suicide based on hospital records, and 79 completed suicide. For each suicide attempt or completion, the researchers selected 30 control children who were the same sex and age.

Compared with the control children, those who attempted suicide were more likely to have changed residences frequently—55.2% of suicidal children and 32% of controls had moved more than three times, and 7.4% had moved more than 10 times (compared with 1.9% of controls). Frequent moves were also more common among children who completed suicide.

A dose-response relationship was observed for both attempted and completed suicide, meaning that the more often a child changed addresses, the more likely he or she was to have attempted or completed suicide. The associations remained significant after the researchers controlled for other factors, such as birthplace and parents’ mental health.

“The breakdown of connections with peers, discontinuation of group activities, distress, and worries related to the new environment are potentially psychologically distressing events for young children. Frequent exposures to these events can be stressful and confusing and may affect their psychosocial well-being, thus increasing their intention toward ending their life if they are unable to cope,” the authors wrote. In addition, moving is stressful for parents and may result in their inability to attend to their children’s emotional needs. “Children may feel ignored and have no one to communicate with. A suicide attempt may, to some extent, express the need for more attention from their parents.”

— Source: American Medical Association