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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 14°C
# Autism
Adults with Asperger Syndrome at higher risk of having suicidal thoughts
Researchers said that the findings should be a wake-up call that there is an urgent need for high quality services.

ADULTS WITH ASPERGER Syndrome are nine times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts than the general population.

According to a study from the Cambridge University’s Cambridge Lifetime Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS) clinic that was published in The Lancet Psychiatry, there is a higher rate of suicidal ideation among adults with Asperger Syndrome, at 66 per cent, compared with the rate found in the general population at just 17 per cent.

Asperger Syndrome is part of the autistic spectrum and shares some of the same characteristics as autism.

Asperger syndrome in adulthood is frequently associated with depression, but few studies have explored the lifetime experience of self-reported suicidal ideation and suicide plans or attempts within this group.

The study surveyed 374 individuals (256 men and 118 women) diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome between 2004 and 2013 who attend the clinic.


While two-thirds of adults with Asperger Syndrome had contemplated suicide, 35 per cent said they had planned or attempted suicide during their lifetime.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviours were significantly more common in adults with Asperger Syndrome and a history of depression.

Among adults with Asperger Syndrome, those with depression were four times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and twice as likely to plan or attempt suicide, compared to individuals with Asperger Syndrome but without a history of depression.

A second risk factor for suicide plans or attempts was a higher level of autistic traits.

According to Dr Sarah Cassidy, who carried out the research with Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, from the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, adults with Asperger Syndrome often suffer with secondary depression due to social isolation, loneliness, social exclusion, lack of community services, under-achievement, and unemployment.

“Their depression and risk of suicide are preventable with the appropriate support. This study should be a wake-up call for the urgent need for high quality services, to prevent the tragic waste of even a single life,” she said.


  • Console 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email - (suicide, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Column: Autism certainly makes life harder – but diversity also makes societies flourish>

 Column: I have Asperger’s and I like being “different”>

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