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Mental Health Center

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Twins Less Likely to Commit Suicide

Strong Bond Helps Twins Find Life Worth Living

WebMD Health News

Aug. 14, 2003 -- Just how close are twins? So close that they apparently can help prevent each other from committing suicide.

Researchers in Denmark compared medical records of more than 21,000 same-sex twins born over a 60-year period and analyzed their cause of death years later. By then, 62% of the twins had died.

Researchers found the bond between twins is quite unique.

While twins had the same death rate as other people, they were significantly less likely to commit suicide than the general population. Researchers discovered that identical and fraternal twins offered the same protection, as did male and female twins. The study appears in the August issue of the British Medical Journal.

Strong Relationships to the Rescue

Previous studies show strong family ties and commitments are important in preventing suicide. Having parents alive and together, being married, and having young children all make suicide less likely, the researchers note.

Twins share a special bond because they share the same family and social environment most times. But they also show a higher level of closeness, both in terms of the number of years spent together before leaving home and in how much they keep in contact afterwards, researchers say.

But there was something peculiar about the researchers' findings.

The strongest risk factor for suicide is mental illness and studies show that mental illness is slightly more common among twins. Thus, researchers thought that twins may be more likely to commit suicide. But instead they found just the opposite.

Researchers say their results prove the overwhelming power of having strong family ties.

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