Adolescents with eczema were significantly more likely to report suicidal ideation than those who did not have eczema, based on data from a population-based study of more than 3,000 adolescents. The findings were published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
Data from previous studies have shown an increased suicide risk in patients with skin disorders, but the impact of eczema on adolescents in particular has not been well studied, wrote Dr. Jon A. Halvorsen of the department of dermatology at the University of Oslo and his colleagues (J. Invest. Dermatol. 2014;134:1847-54).
The researchers reviewed survey data from 3,556 adolescents aged 18-19 years collected as part of the Oslo section of the Youths 2004 study.
The overall prevalence of eczema was 10% (12% in girls and 7% in boys). The overall incidence of suicidal ideation was 11%, but 16% of adolescents with eczema reported suicidal ideation vs. 9% of those with no eczema (odds ratio, 1.87). The association was even stronger in adolescents who reported eczema with itching (OR, 3.57), compared with those who did not report itching (OR, 1.06).
"The risk of suicidal ideation increased nearly fourfold in this group," the researchers noted. "Our data suggest that itch is a major predictor of psychological problems and may be a greater risk factor for these problems than chronic eczema without itch."
In addition, adolescents with eczema were significantly more likely than those without eczema to report mental health problems (assessed by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire) and mental distress (assessed by the Hopkins Symptom Checklist 10) and these associations were even more significant in adolescents who reported eczema with itch, compared with those who had eczema without itch.
The study was limited by the use of self-reports, but its strengths include a large sample size with high participation, the researchers said. The results suggest that "both treatment of eczema and psychological support in this high-risk group may help to reduce suicide and mental health problems in this vulnerable population," they added.
The researchers reported no financial conflicts.