Social Withdrawal in Children and Teens Linked to Elevated Suicide Risk, Study Finds

New research suggests that if preteens or teens withdraw from school activities and social events, it may indicate more than typical adolescent moodiness. 

According to a study by Japanese researchers, being socially withdrawn and experiencing physical discomforts such as headaches, nausea, or stomachaches as a preteen can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts by the age of 16.

Dr. John Duffy, a Chicago-based psychologist, notes that the study aligns with his clinical observations, emphasizing that socially withdrawn teenagers with somatic symptoms, particularly anxiety, in early adolescence face a higher risk of suicidal ideation in later years. This underscores the importance of early intervention.

The study, part of the Tokyo Teen Cohort study, involved over 2,700 adolescents. Parents provided information about their child’s mental and behavioral symptoms at ages 10, 12, and 16. 

Social withdrawal and somatic symptoms between ages 10 and 12 were associated with a two to three times higher likelihood of suicidal thoughts at age 16.

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Rising Youth Suicide Rates

New research suggests that if preteens or teens withdraw from school activities and social events, it may indicate more than typical adolescent moodiness.

In recent years, the United States has seen an increase in suicide attempts and deaths among children and young adults, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Christopher Willard from Harvard Medical School underscores the human need for social connection and highlights that neutral or positive social interactions play a crucial role in mental health.

Dr. Shuntaro Ando, the lead study author, encourages parents to pay attention to withdrawal symptoms and not to overlook them. He indicates the value of recognizing that these signs could be indicative of a deeper problem, even if the child has always been shy. 

It is crucial to recognize warning signs early, such as extreme mood swings or expressions of hopelessness.

Dr. Duffy emphasizes the importance of seeking professional help early as a preventive measure. 

While mental health professionals play a critical role, the support of peers, sports coaches, or family friends should not be underestimated.

For teens experiencing suicidal thoughts, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline offers support through calls or texts 24/7.

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