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Developmental Timing of Suicide Attempts and Cardiovascular Risk during Young Adulthood


Shanahan, Lilly; Schorpp, Kristen M.; Volpe, Vanessa V.; Linthicum, Kathryn; & Freeman, Jason A. (2016). Developmental Timing of Suicide Attempts and Cardiovascular Risk during Young Adulthood. Health Psychology, 35(10), 1135-1143. PMCID: PMC5033671


Objective: Self-control/self-regulation has received increased attention in health research. Suicide attempts index severe dysregulation in emotional, behavioral, and/or physiological domains. The current study tested whether own and/or others’ suicide attempts during the early life course predicted cardiovascular risk by young adulthood and whether developmental timing of suicide attempts, sex of the person, and source of suicide attempts exposure modified these associations.
Method: Data came from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). At each assessment during Waves I–IV (covering approximately ages 12–32 years), participants reported whether they and/or a friend/family member had attempted suicide. At Wave IV, trained interviewers assessed participants’ obesity and hypertension and collected bloodspots from which high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) was assayed. Sample sizes in the present analyses ranged from n=7,884 to n=8,474.
Results: Exposure to own and others’ suicide attempts during adolescence was relatively common. In males, suicide attempts during adolescence (~ age 15 years) were associated with hypertension and elevated inflammation more than 1 decade later. Associations among suicide attempts by others and cardiovascular risk also emerged.
Conclusions: Exposure to one’s own or others’ severe dysregulation in the form of suicide attempts during the early life course signals risk for cardiovascular health problems by the late twenties. Adolescent males who attempted suicide and individuals exposed to suicide attempts in their social network may benefit from a dual focus on mental and physical health in care.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Health Psychology


Shanahan, Lilly
Schorpp, Kristen M.
Volpe, Vanessa V.
Linthicum, Kathryn
Freeman, Jason A.