College entrance may be a strategically well-placed “point of capture” for detecting late adolescents with suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB). However, a clear epidemiological picture of STB among incoming college students is lacking. We present the first cross-national data on prevalence as well as socio-demographic and college-related correlates for STB among first-year college students.
Web-based self-report surveys were obtained from 13,984 first-year students (response rate 45.5%) across 19 colleges in eight countries (Australia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Spain, United States).
Lifetime prevalence of suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts was 32.7%, 17.5%, and 4.3%, respectively. Twelve-month prevalence was 17.2%, 8.8%, and 1.0%, respectively. About 75% of STB cases had onset before the age of 16 years (Q3 = 15.8), with persistence figures in the range 41-53%. About half (53.4%) of lifetime ideators transitioned to a suicide plan; 22.1% of lifetime planners transitioned to an attempt. Attempts among lifetime ideators without plan were less frequent (3.1%). Significant correlates of lifetime STB were cross-nationally consistent and generally modest in effect size (median adjusted OR [aOR] = 1.7). Non-heterosexual orientation (aOR range 3.3-7.9) and heterosexual orientation with some same-sex attraction (aOR range 1.9-2.3) were the strongest correlates of STB, and of transitioning from ideation to plans and/or attempts (aOR range 1.6-6.1).
The distribution of STB in first-year students is widespread, and relatively independent of socio-demographic risk profile. Multivariate risk algorithms based on a high number of risk factors are indicated to efficiently link high-risk status with effective preventive interventions.
|Number of pages||12|
|Journal||Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry|
|Early online date||13 Feb 2018|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 13 Feb 2018|
- suicidal behaviour
- mental health