Understanding Suicide Risk in Autistic Adults: Comparing the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide in Autistic and Non-autistic Samples

J Autism Dev Disord. 2020 Oct;50(10):3620-3637. doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04393-8.


This study explored whether the Interpersonal Theory of suicide informs our understanding of high rates of suicidality in autistic adults. Autistic and non-autistic adults (n = 695, mean age 41.7 years, 58% female) completed an online survey of self-reported thwarted belonging, perceived burden, autistic traits, suicidal capability, trauma, and lifetime suicidality. Autistic people reported stronger feelings of perceived burden, thwarted belonging and more lifetime trauma than non-autistic people. The hypothesised interaction between burdensomeness and thwarted belonging were observed in the non-autistic group but not in the autistic group. In both groups autistic traits influenced suicidality through burdensomeness/thwarted belonging. Promoting self-worth and social inclusion are important for suicide prevention and future research should explore how these are experienced and expressed by autistic people.

Keywords: Autism spectrum condition; Capability for suicide; Interpersonal theory of suicide; Perceived burden; Suicidality; Suicide; Thwarted belonging; Trauma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Autistic Disorder / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult