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Journal Published UC Merced Public Health Professor's Study on Violence and Suicidal Behavior

February 6, 2024
By Patty Guerra, UC Merced
Professor Goldman-Mellor
Professor Goldman-Mellor

A study conducted by a UC Merced researcher found that people injured through violent acts have a substantially higher risk to die by or attempt suicide.

The study, conducted by public health Professor Sidra Goldman-Mellor and Ping Qin, professor at the National Center for Suicide Research and Prevention in Oslo, has been published in eClinical Medicine, an open-access journal of the Lancet medical journal.

Goldman-Mellor conducted the study in conjunction with the University of Oslo while on a Fulbright Fellowship in Norway. She used population-based Norwegian register data, or information routinely collected by governments on their populations' health events, social status and deaths - from 2010 to 2018 to investigate how being injured through violence is associated with subsequent risk for non-fatal and fatal suicidal behavior.

The study examined 28,276 violence-injured patients and compared them with 282,760 sex- and age-matched individuals.

Previous research in the area focused on intimate partner violence, childhood abuse or sexual assault. The study Goldman-Mellor and Qin conducted looked more broadly at people who had been hurt through a variety of violent incidents.

The researchers said while strong associations have been documented between violent injury - such as physical assault, sexual violence, intimate partner violence or childhood abuse - and subsequent issues such as depression, anxiety and substance use disorders, it's less well-understood how violent injury is related to the most severe mental health outcome of all: suicide and suicidal behavior.

Goldman-Mellor and Qin found that violently injured people are about 10 times as likely as their non-injured peers to subsequently attempt suicide - and about five times as likely to actually die by suicide. The study found that substantially elevated risks remained even after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics including income, education, marital status and immigrant status, as well as history of prior psychiatric treatment and deliberate self-harm for both male and female patients.

"These findings underscore how the 'long arm' of violence can profoundly affect mental health, including suicidal behavior," Goldman-Mellor said. "Violence prevention efforts by the public health community are vital in their own right but will likely have cascading beneficial effects on population mental health as well."

Goldman-Mellor said her findings indicating that experiencing violent injury is associated with substantially increased short- and long-term risk of fatal and nonfatal suicidal behavior underscore the need for additional research on the mechanisms underlying this association and intervention strategies designed to reduce suicide risk in violence-injured populations.

Researchers suggested that clinicians provide suicide risk screening and intervention measures to violently injured patients, particularly if they are struggling with other psychosocial adversities.

While the study itself resulted in important information, it's just as vital to share those findings with the global community.

"I try to publish in open-access journals whenever possible, to increase the availability of my research findings to a wide range of audiences," Goldman-Mellor said. "Scientific information on public health problems is relevant to communities everywhere, and everyone has an interest in suicide and violence prevention. I hope that research like mine gets broadly circulated and can help form part of the evidence base for clinical and policy prevention efforts."