The association between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and suicide attempts in a population-based study

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Abstract

Objectives

To further our understanding of the relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and suicidal behaviour, this study investigates the association between three types of ACEs and lifetime suicide attempts, while considering potential gender-specific and mediating effects.

Methods

Data were obtained from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health (CCHS-MH), a cross-sectional, population-based survey comprised of respondents aged 18 or older who provided self-reported data on past experiences of suicide attempts, as well as childhood sexual abuse (CSA), childhood physical abuse (CPA) and parental domestic violence (PDV) (n = 22 559). After testing for ACE by gender interactions, we estimated the odds of lifetime suicide attempts for each ACE and then investigated whether depression, anxiety, substance abuse and chronic pain acted as mediators of the relationship.

Results

The odds of suicide attempts are significantly higher among those with a history of CPA (OR = 3.29; 99.9% CI 2.33–4.64), CSA (OR = 4.42; 99.9% CI 3.14–6.23) or PDV (OR = 2.52; 99.9% CI 1.69–3.76), when ACEs are mutually adjusted. There is little evidence that gender acts as a moderator; however, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and chronic pain appear to partially mediate the associations. Depression alone accounts for about a quarter of the associations with CSA and CPA.

Conclusions

Mental health factors and chronic pain appear only to partially mediate relationships between ACEs and lifetime suicide attempts. Future research should look at other pathways with the goal of developing multi-level interventions.

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