Drug abuse and suicidal behavior more common on anniversary of parent’s death – new research

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Losing a parent during adolescence and puberty can be particularly damaging to mental health and wellbeing. Our latest research has now shown that youth who had lost a parent were more likely to be hospitalized for treatment of substance abuse problems or suicidal behavior around the anniversary of their parent’s death. .

We conducted a large study of approximately 2 million people using population data collected in Sweden between 2001 and 2014. To understand whether there was a greater risk of substance abuse or suicidal behavior around the anniversary of a parent’s death, we combined the dates of parental death. Along with the dates that the participants were hospitalized for drug abuse, self-harm or attempted suicide. We tracked participants for a period of four anniversaries.

About 3% of the study population experienced the death of a parent between the ages of 12 and 24. To ensure that any increased risk was specific to the anniversaries of the parents’ deaths, we compared hospital admissions for drug use or suicidal behavior around anniversaries with those observed. Which happened on different dates in the same year between people who had lost their parents.

We found that youth who had lost a parent were more likely to suffer from a substance use disorder or suicidal behavior during the next two months, along with the death of the parent. This increased risk was observed again during the following year around the same dates.

One year after losing a parent, there was a 121% increase in the risk of hospital treatment for substance abuse in men in the two months following the anniversary, and a 91% increase in women compared to those who did not. , who had not lost parents. The increased risk of suicidal behavior was 218% for men during the same period, but no significant increase in women. This pattern continued in those who had lost a parent for the next three years – although they became less common over time. Fortunately, fatalities were extremely rare.

Not every youth who lost a parent exhibited these behaviors.
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But it is important to emphasize that instances of substance abuse or suicidal behavior were not common among people who had lost a parent. Only 2% of the bereaved were hospitalized for a substance use disorder during the study period. Only about 1% were identified as displaying suicidal behavior. But this behavior occurred more frequently in those who had lost a parent at a relatively early age, compared with those who did not.

Our study also showed that the risk of hospital treatment due to substance abuse or suicidal behavior was higher for men than women in the early years. But the women also had an increased risk of a long-term substance use disorder—which persisted at four anniversaries. Women were more likely to be treated in hospital for substance use disorder in the month before an anniversary, suggesting that painful feelings occurred in anticipation of the anniversary date.

grief and mental health

The loss of a parent at a relatively young age will obviously be a source of profound grief for most people. But our study shows that, although it is uncommon, for some people this anniversary can lead to harmful behavior. But our study also showed that grief-related distress decreases over time—and so does the risk of substance abuse and suicidal behavior.

Anniversaries of the loss of a loved one can be especially harrowing for people, no matter their age. But it is uncertain whether the anniversary of a loved one’s death triggers mental illness to a greater extent than other significant anniversaries – such as the birthday of a bereaved family member. This is something that researchers will need to continue investigating.

Our research shows that there is a clear need to support those who have lost a parent at the time of the loss – and that support should also be extended around the anniversary of the one who lost a parent, possibly for many years. Had given. It is also important to recognize that mental health risks can differ between men and women. Providing the right kind of support, including grief counseling, alcohol and other drug-related problems, and mental health support, will be essential to reducing loss among people who have lost a parent.

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