The association of sexual assault and attempted suicide within the community.
BACKGROUND: Lifetime community rates of attempted suicide were compared between those who reported a history of sexual assault and a control group without such a history. METHODS: The 2918 respondents in the Duke University Epidemiological Catchment Area Study were placed into groups with reported sexual assault (n = 67) and those with no known history of such (n = 2851). Multivariate and bivariate procedures were used to examine the relation between sexual assault and attempted suicide. RESULTS: Subjects reporting a history of sexual assault were more likely to be female, younger, and to report higher rates of lifetime suicide attempt and post-traumatic stress symptoms; no differences were found in the number of chronic medical disorders, major depression, substance abuse or substance dependence, or panic attacks. Nine (14.9%) of the 67 index group subjects reported a suicide attempt, 4 of whom reported their first sexual assault as occurring before age 16 years. A sexual assault history was associated with increased prevalence of lifetime suicide attempt after controlling for sex, age, education, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and psychiatric disorder. Findings were similar in the female-only subsample (n = 1778). For women, the odds of attempting suicide was 3 to 4 times greater when the first reported sexual assault occurred prior to age 16 years compared with age 16 years or older. CONCLUSIONS: Sexual assault is associated with an increased lifetime rate of attempted suicide. In women, a history of sexual trauma before age 16 years is a particularly strong correlate of attempted suicide.
Davidson, JR; Hughes, DC; George, LK; Blazer, DG
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