Risk of suicide attempts in adolescents and young adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a nationwide longitudinal study

Br J Psychiatry. 2018 Apr;212(4):234-238. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2018.8. Epub 2018 Mar 4.


Background: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increases the risk of suicidal behaviours through psychiatric comorbidities; however, a significant direct association has not been observed between ADHD and suicide attempts. Aims To evaluate the risk of suicide attempt in adolescents and young adults with ADHD.

Method: Using a nationwide, population-based insurance claims database, this longitudinal cohort study enrolled 20 574 adolescents and young adults with ADHD and 61 722 age- and gender-matched controls between 2001 and 2009. Any suicide attempt was identified from enrolment to 31 December 2011. The association between ADHD medications and the likelihood of suicide attempt was assessed.

Results: ADHD was an independent risk factor for any suicide attempt (hazard ratio = 3.84, 95% CI = 3.19-4.62) and repeated suicide attempts (hazard ratio = 6.52, 95% CI = 4.46-9.53). Subgroup analyses of men, women, adolescents and young adults demonstrated the same trend. Methylphenidate or atomoxetine treatment did not increase the risk of suicide attempt or repeated suicide attempts. Long-term methylphenidate treatment was associated with a significantly decreased risk of repeated suicide attempts in men (hazard ratio = 0.46, 95% CI = 0.22-0.97).

Conclusion: ADHD was a risk factor for suicide attempt and a stronger predictor of repeated suicide attempts, independent of comorbidities. Further investigation is warranted to explore the mechanism underlying the association between ADHD and suicidal behaviours. Declaration of interest None.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Adult
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride / pharmacology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / pharmacology
  • National Health Programs / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride