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Motherhood a Buffer Against Suicide
Date:3/22/2010

Study shows that risk declines as number of children rises

MONDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- There may be something about raising children that helps shield women from suicide, a study involving over a million Taiwanese mothers suggests.

In fact, women's suicide rates declined as the number of children they cared for rose, the team reported March 22 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"People have always known this clinically, although it's never been statistically or empirically verified," said Dr. Jon Shaw, director and professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "Clearly, women with children who are still being cared for by the mother decreases the likelihood of the mother hurting or killing herself partly because she's so emotionally invested in the children and, in a very complex way, killing herself means killing her children as well, and depriving them of a mother."

In fact, there's other evidence suggesting that the protective effect of having offspring extends to fathers as well, Shaw said.

This large study, out of Taiwan, also extends our knowledge base to more areas of the world.

"Because this is the first study in Asia, it adds some international confirmation for the finding," said Alan L. Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology and president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention. "Now we can say that [the phenomenon] is not specific to any specific part of the world."

Until now, the most convincing studies on motherhood and suicide have been conducted in Norway, Denmark and Finland, all of which found a lower risk of suicide in mothers versus women without children.

According to background information in the paper, men have a higher suicide rate than women -- three times as high in Western countries and twice as high in Taiwan.


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