Early Sexual Abuse Tied to Later Suicidal Ideation

By Boschert, Sherry | Clinical Psychiatry News, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Early Sexual Abuse Tied to Later Suicidal Ideation


Boschert, Sherry, Clinical Psychiatry News


Women aged 50 and older with major depression were nearly seven times more likely to have considered suicide in the past week if they had a history of childhood sexual abuse, a study of 127 patients found.

The 18 women in the study who reported being sexually abused as children also were four times more likely to have attempted suicide more than once in their life, compared with the 109 patients with no sexual abuse during childhood, reported Nancy L. Talbot, Ph.D., and her associates (Am. J. Geriatr. Psychiatry 2004;12:536-8).

The study is one of few to examine the effects of early sexual abuse on suicidal ideation in older patients, said Dr. Talbot of the University of Rochester (N.Y.). The results remained unchanged after controlling for current comorbid Axis I disorders, age, marital status, education, and substance abuse history.

"The maxim that 'time heals all wounds' may not apply to depressed older-adult women who have childhood sexual abuse histories," she said.

The investigators studied older female inpatients diagnosed with major depression, using interviews, chart reviews, and the Scale of Suicidal Ideation.

The investigators found no association between a history of childhood sexual abuse and three other outcomes: the odds of ever having attempted suicide; the likelihood of a suicide attempt being the cause of the current hospitalization; and a "death ideation" score, based on three questions that asked about the woman's wish to live, her wish to die, and how much one wish outweighed the other.

The study defined childhood sexual abuse as unwanted sexual contact before age 18, identified by the patient or her medical records.

Psychiatrists--even some geriatric psychiatrists--tend to discount the importance of early life experiences in working with psychopathology in older adults, noted Jeffrey Lyness, M.

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