PURPOSE: To investigate the associations of childhood adversities (CAs) with lifetime onset and transitions across suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB) among incoming college students.
METHODS: Web-based self-report surveys administered to 20,842 incoming college students from nine countries (response rate 45.6%) assessed lifetime suicidal ideation, plans and attempts along with seven CAs: parental psychopathology, three types of abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), neglect, bully victimization, and dating violence. Logistic regression estimated individual- and population-level associations using CA operationalizations for type, number, severity, and frequency.
RESULTS: Associations of CAs with lifetime ideation and the transition from ideation to plan were best explained by the exact number of CA types (OR range 1.32-52.30 for exactly two to seven CAs). Associations of CAs with a transition to attempts were best explained by the frequency of specific CA types (scaled 0-4). Attempts among ideators with a plan were significantly associated with all seven CAs (OR range 1.16-1.59) and associations remained significant in adjusted analyses with the frequency of sexual abuse (OR = 1.42), dating violence (OR = 1.29), physical abuse (OR = 1.17) and bully victimization (OR = 1.17). Attempts among ideators without plan were significantly associated with frequency of emotional abuse (OR = 1.29) and bully victimization (OR = 1.36), in both unadjusted and adjusted analyses. Population attributable risk simulations found 63% of ideation and 30-47% of STB transitions associated with CAs.
CONCLUSION: Early-life adversities represent a potentially important driver in explaining lifetime STB among incoming college students. Comprehensive intervention strategies that prevent or reduce the negative effects of CAs may reduce subsequent onset of STB.
- College students
- Multivariate models
- Suicide attempt
- Childhood adversity
- Population-attributable risk
- Suicidal ideation