Bad Acne can lead to suicidal thoughts in teenagers

Written by on February 16, 2011 in Acne Treatments, depression & anxiety with 0 Comments

This study, undertaken in Norway finds that bad acne can of its own accord, induce suicidal thoughts in teenagers.

Being a teenager can be tough. Being a teenager with bad skin and good mental health can be even tougher.

If this study bears out in the larger population, then it is worth knowing that acne alone can be responsible for teenagers, most especially boys, thinking about suicide.

Suicidal Ideation, Mental Health Problems, and Social Impairment Are Increased in Adolescents with Acne: A Population-Based Study

Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2011) 131, 363–370;

Jon A Halvorsen, Robert S Stern, Florence Dalgard, Magne Thoresen, Espen Bjertness and Lars Lien

We performed a cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study to explore the relationship of suicidal ideation, mental health problems, and social functioning to acne severity among adolescents aged 18–19 years. A total of 4,744 youth were invited and 3,775 (80%) participated. In all, 14%reported having substantial acne (a lot and very much). Among those with very much acne, as compared those with no/little acne, suicidal ideation was twice as frequently reported among girls (25.5 vs. 11.9%) and three times more frequently reported among boys (22.6 vs. 6.3%). Suicidal ideation remained significantly associated with substantial acne (odds ratio 1.80, 95% confidence interval 1.30–2.50) in a multivariate model including adjustments of symptoms of depression, ethnicity, and family income. Mental health problems, as assessed by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (2.25, 1.69–3.00), low attachment to friends (1.52, 1.21–1.91), not thriving at school (1.41, 1.12–1.78), never having had a romantic relationship (1.35, 1.05–1.70), and never having had sexual intercourse (1.51, 1.21–1.89) were all associated with substantial acne in a multivariate model. Acne is frequently found in late adolescence and is associated with social and psychological problems. Adverse events including suicidal ideation and depression that have been associated with therapies for acne may reflect the burden of substantial acne rather than the effects of medication.

In this study, we could not directly address the claim that isotretinoin intake increases suicidal ideation and depression.

..

Although psychiatric difficulties are the main risk factor for suicide (Bridge et al., 2006), lack of attachment to friends and family is also associated with increased suicide risk (de Jong, 1992; Ledgerwood, 1999). In our study, the separate introduction of social variables (relation with family and friends, thriving at school, bullying, and experience with romantic relationships and sexual intercourse) in the multivariate model did not change the association between acne and suicidal ideation. As such relationships are important for many adolescents, these findings further strengthen our suggestion that acne is an independent risk factor for suicidal ideation.

Our study demonstrates and quantifies the association of reported acne to increased risk of suicidal ideation, mental health problems, and social impairment in a large population-based sample. Acne may influence life in a large number of adolescents in the community, as seen in the percentage of increase, even though the relative increase reflected in the Odds Ratios is quite modest. Especially relevant is the 80% higher level of suicidal ideation in adolescents with substantial acne than among those with no/little acne, independent of symptoms of depression, ethnicity, and family income in this population with low use of isotretinoin. Our results are helpful for clinicians, as subjective complaints are important when choosing treatment. Furthermore, these findings have public health implications because they underscore the need of appropriate health care for adolescent boys and girls in the community.

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About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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