School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

Sexual Abuse and Its Impact on Suicidal Ideation and Attempts and Psychiatric Illness in Children and Adolescents With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

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Objective: Sexual abuse in minors aged 6–17 years is a significant public health concern. Victims of sexual abuse are at risk of developing complex psychopathology and chronic suicidal thoughts. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops in one-third of minors with a history of sexual abuse. The primary objective of this study was to assess the baseline characteristics of minors with PTSD and a history of sexual abuse (PTSD+S) compared with minors with PTSD without sexual abuse (PTSD only). The secondary objective was to evaluate the psychiatric comorbidities and suicidal ideation/attempts between the groups.

Methods: The National Inpatient Sample database from 2006 to 2014 was analyzed using the ICD-9 code for PTSD and history of sexual abuse. PTSD+S (n = 251) subjects were compared with those with PTSD only (n = 24,243) using t test and χ2 test. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed with suicidal behavior (suicidal ideation/attempt) as the outcome and PTSD with and without sexual abuse, sex, age, and other psychiatric comorbid conditions as independent variables.

Results: More patients in the PTSD+S group were nonwhite (52% vs 42%, P < .001) and female (81% vs 66%, P < .001) compared to PTSD only patients. Also, more patients were Hispanic in the PTSD+S group compared to the PTSD only group (28% vs 13%). Major depressive disorder (MDD; 23% vs 14%, P < .001) and substance use disorder (SUD; 20% vs 11%) were more commonly diagnosed psychiatric comorbidities in the PTSD+S group (P < .001). Suicidal behavior (suicidal ideation/attempt) was higher in the PTSD+S group than in PTSD only patients (36% vs 30%, P = .05). Overall, the risk of suicidal behavior was 29% higher in the PTSD+S group than in PTSD only patients (odds ratio [OR] = 1.29, P = .05). In the multivariate analysis, after controlling for age and sex, comorbid diagnosis of MDD (OR = 1.66, P < .001) and SUD (OR = 1.18, P < .001) was associated with increased suicidal behavior. However, PTSD+S showed no association with suicidality (OR = 1.16, P = .29) in the multivariate analysis.

Conclusions: Sexual abuse is associated with PTSD and higher risk of comorbid psychiatric illnesses, including MDD, SUD, and suicidal behavior. In-depth research on the relationship between child and adolescent sexual abuse and chronic suicidality is warranted.


© 2023 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.

Publication Title

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord.



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Mentor/PI Department