Suicidality in Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Crisis. 2017 Jul;38(4):237-246. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000458. Epub 2017 May 3.


Background: It is suggested that people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) may be at increased risk of suicide; however, research on this topic has been minimal and there are conflicting reports in existing studies.

Aim: To bring together research investigating the prevalence, risk factors, and comorbid factors of suicidality in ASD.

Method: A systematic search was performed of Medline, Psych Info, Embase, and the Web of Science following PRISMA guidelines. After exclusion criteria were applied, 70 full-text articles were screened. The final review contained 12 papers with a total sample size of 2,651.

Results: Prevalence of suicide attempts varied between 7% and 47%, while suicidal ideation was reported in up to 72% of cases. Being male and having a history of self-harm and depression were cited as significant risk factors.

Limitations: Papers were cross sectional and contained a number of limitations. Only one paper used the gold standard for diagnosis of ASD and one a standardized measure of suicidal behavior.

Conclusion: Suicidal attempts and ideation are increased in ASD; however, the extent of the increase and the risk factors identified within this group remain under-investigated. There is a lack of research on protective factors. The correlation between ASD and suicidality needs further examination with longitudinal research.

Keywords: Asperger's syndrome; autism spectrum disorders; pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified; suicidal behavior; suicide.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*