Suicidality and Associated Factors Among Individuals Assessed for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Across the Lifespan in Canada

Flannigan K, McMorris C, Ewasiuk A, et al. Suicidality and Associated Factors Among Individuals Assessed for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Across the Lifespan in Canada: Suicidabilité et facteurs associés chez les personnes évaluées pour les troubles du spectre de l’alcoolisation fœtale de durée de vie au Canada. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. November 2021. doi:10.1177/07067437211053288



Individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) experience a range of complex neurodevelopmental, psychological, and socioenvironmental vulnerabilities. There is growing evidence that suicidal ideation, attempts, and death by suicide are significant concerns within this population. In this study, we (1) determined the rate of suicidal ideation/attempts in a large group of individuals with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) who were assessed for FASD in Canada and (2) investigated the associations between suicidal ideation/attempts and select demographic and biopsychosocial factors in this group.


A secondary analysis of data from Canada’s National FASD Database, a national repository of clinical information gathered through FASD assessment and diagnostic clinics across the country, was conducted. Descriptive analyses, chi-square/Fisher’s exact tests, and binary logistic regression were used to examine demographic and biopsychosocial variables and their associations with suicidality.


In our sample of 796 participants (Mage = 17.7 years, range = 6–59; 57.6% male) assessed for FASD, 25.9% were reported to experience suicidal ideation/attempts. Numerous demographic and biopsychosocial factors were found to be significantly associated with suicidal ideation/attempts. The strongest associations with suicidal ideation/attempts were substance use, history of trauma/abuse, and impaired affect regulation.


With this study, we contribute to the emerging evidence of elevated risk of suicidality among individuals with PAE/FASD and improve our understanding of factors that may exacerbate this risk. Findings have relevance for improving screening, prevention, and proactive treatment approaches for individuals with PAE and FASD, their families, and wider support systems.

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