Children at Risk for Suicide Attempt and Attempt-related Injuries: Findings from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Bethany A. West, MPH; Monica H. Swahn, PhD; Frances McCarty, PhD

Disclosures

Western J Emerg Med. 2010;11(3):257-263. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Purpose: The current study examines the associations between a range of risk factors and reports of suicide attempts and attempts requiring medical care in a nationally representative study of high school students. The goal is to examine sex differences in the risk factors associated with suicide attempts and attempt-related injuries requiring treatment by a health-care provider.
Methods: We used data from the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey for students in grades 9–12 to assess the prevalence and risk factors for suicidal behavior, as well as differences in these for boys and girls. Cross-sectional multivariate logistic regression analyses were computed to determine the most important risk factors for suicide attempts and for suicide attempts requiring medical care for the sample overall and also stratified for boys and for girls.
Results: Overall, 6.9% of adolescents attempted suicide (9.3% of girls versus 4.6% of boys). Girls were more likely than boys to report a suicide attempt in the past year (Adj.OR=2.89). Among girls, sadness (Adj.OR=5.74), weapon carrying (Adj.OR=1.48), dating violence (Adj.OR=1.60), forced sex (Adj.OR=1.72), and huffing glue (Adj.OR=2.04) were significantly associated with suicide attempts. Among boys, sadness (Adj.OR=10.96), weapon carrying (Adj.OR=1.66), forced sex (Adj.OR=2.60), huffing glue (OR=1.63), hard drug use (Adj.OR=2.18), and sports involvement (Adj.OR=1.52) were significantly associated with suicide attempts.
Conclusion: These findings demonstrate similarities and differences in the modifiable risk factors that increase risk for suicide attempts among boys and girls. In terms of the differences between boys and girls, hard drug use and sports involvement may be important factors for suicide-prevention strategies directed specifically towards boys, while dating violence victimization may be an important risk factor to address for girls. Overall, these findings can help guide prevention, clinical practice, and intervention strategies to prevent suicidal behaviors among adolescents.

Introduction

Youth suicide is an increasingly important public health issue in the U.S. that impacts many adolescents, their families and communities.[1–9] In 2006 suicide was the third leading cause of death among youth 10–24 years of age.[2] Research shows that 8.4% (10.8% for girls and 6.0% for boys) of high school students in the U.S. reported attempting suicide in the past year.[10] Several well known risk factors exist for suicidal behavior among youth.[1,3–9] These include depression, impulsive and aggressive behaviors, previous victimization, social isolation, alcohol and drug use, sexual activity, and family factors. Previous studies show that several of these risk factors vary by sex.[1,8–9,11–25] However, considerable gaps still remain in understanding the extent to which these suicide risks vary by sex, particularly among nationally representative youth. More specific knowledge is needed to direct future youth suicide-prevention strategies and to decide how limited resources can be best dispersed.

The purpose of the current study is to examine the associations between a range of risk factors and reports of suicide attempts and attempts requiring medical care in a nationally representative study of high school students. The selected and modifiable risk factors have been identified as important in previous empirical and theoretical research including the developmental–transactional model of youth suicidal behaviors[6] and will be examined separately for boys and girls since the prevalence of both the risk factors and the outcome often varies by sex.[1,7,8,11,16,21,26] Moreover, focusing specifically on modifiable risk factors will ensure that information from the current study can inform future prevention strategies, clinical practice and resource allocation.

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