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Open Access Research article

Perinatal and psychosocial circumstances associated with risk of attempted suicide, non-suicidal self-injury and psychiatric service use. A longitudinal study of young people

Robert Young1*, Vincent Riordan2 and Cameron Stark3

Author Affiliations

1 MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow G12 8RZ, Scotland, UK

2 West Cork Mental Health Services, HSE. Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland; Centre for Rural Realth Research and Policy, Inverness, Scotland, UK

3 NHS Highland, Inverness, Scotland, UK, Centre for Rural Health Research and Policy, Inverness, Scotland, UK

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:875  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-875

Published: 18 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Past studies using large population based datasets link certain perinatal circumstances (birth weight, parity, etc) with mental health outcomes such as suicide, self-harm and psychiatric problems. Problematically, population datasets omit a number of social confounds. The aim of this study is to replicate past research linking perinatal circumstances and mental health (suicidality and use of psychiatric services) and to determine if such associations remain after adjusting for social circumstances.

Methods

A longitudinal school-based survey of 2157 young people (surveyed at age 11, 13, 15) followed up in early adulthood (age 19). At age 11 parents of participants provided information about perinatal circumstances (birth weight, birth complications, etc.) and psychiatric service use. Participants provided data about their mental health at age 15 (attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts) and at ages 19 (self-harm, psychiatric service use). In addition, data were collected about their social and psychosocial circumstances (gender, deprivation, religion, sexual behaviour, etc.).

Results

Predictably, social factors were linked to mental health outcomes. For example, those with same sex partners were more likely (OR 4.84) to self-harm than those without a same sex partner. With a single exception, in both unadjusted and adjusted models, perinatal circumstances were not or only marginally associated with mental health outcomes. The exception was the number of birth complications; young people with two or more complications were approximately 2-3 times more likely than those without complications to use psychiatric services.

Conclusions

While we failed to replicate results found using large population based datasets, some of our results are compatible with prior research findings. Further, evidence from this study supports the influence of perinatal circumstances (birth complications) on later psychiatric problems, or at least higher than expected contact with psychiatric service.