Suicide attempts among people with eating disorders and adverse childhood experiences: Results from a nationally representative sample of adults

Lauren N. Forrest, Carlos M. Grilo, Tomoko Udo

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Objective: People with eating disorders (EDs) have elevated rates of suicide attempts. A need exists to identify factors that help predict which people with EDs might be at greater risk for suicidal behavior. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with both EDs and with suicide attempts. Thus, the current study examined whether having histories of ACEs and EDs augments lifetime risk for suicide attempts. Method: This study included 36,146 adult participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III who completed structured diagnostic interviews and answered questions regarding ACEs and suicide attempts. Weighted means, frequencies, and cross-tabulations were computed for prevalence of ACEs and suicide attempts by ED diagnosis. Multiple logistic regression was used to compare risk of lifetime suicide attempts by ED diagnosis and ACE history. Results: Prevalence of ACEs among people with EDs was 54.1–67.8%. ACE history and ED diagnosis were associated with elevated odds of experiencing a lifetime suicide attempt (AORs = 4.64–6.45 and 3.20–4.06, respectively). There was no ACE history-by-ED interaction on risk of suicide attempt, regardless of forms of EDs. Discussion: ACEs are common among people with EDs and associated significantly with suicide attempts, but ACEs and EDs do not appear to interact to augment risk for suicide attempts. Considering ACE exposure in theoretical models of suicidal behavior in people with and without EDs and in suicide risk assessment and management with people with EDs may prove useful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)326-335
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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