Genetic Contribution to Suicidal Behaviors and Associated Risk Factors among Adolescents in the U.S.

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Abstract

This paper examines genetic contribution to suicidal behaviors and other risk factors associated with suicidal behavior among adolescents in the U.S. Using adolescent twin data in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N=1448), we compared concordance in suicidal ideation and attempt among monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins. Heritability of risk factors for suicidal behaviors also was examined using Pearson correlation and mixed-model analyses. A trend of higher concordance in suicidal ideation and attempt was found among MZ than DZ twins but the difference was not statistically significant by the stringent test of bootstrapping analysis. Evidence of heritability was found for several suicide risk factors. The percentage of variance explained by heritability was larger among female twins for depression, aggression, and quantity of cigarettes smoked in comparison to heritability estimates for male twins. However, estimated heritability was larger among male than female twins for alcohol use and binge drinking. Heritability influence was negligible among both sexes for other drug use. Risk factors for suicidal behaviors among adolescents may be heritable. Gender differences found in the heritability of some suicide risk factors suggest these genetic contributions are gender specific. Future research examining potential interactions between expression of genetic influence and particular environmental contexts may enhance prevention and intervention efforts.

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