Department of Economics and Business Economics

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors among college students and same-aged peers: results from the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Philippe Mortier, Research Group Psychiatry, Department of Neurosciences, KU Leuven University, Herestraat 49, 3000, Leuven, Belgium. philippe.mortier@uzleuven.be.
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  • Randy P Auerbach, Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA.
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  • Jordi Alonso, Navarre Public Health Institute (ISPN), Pamplona, Spain CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Barcelona, Spain.
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  • William G Axinn, Population Studies Center, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research and the Department of Sociology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
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  • Pim Cuijpers, Department of Biological Psychology, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research and Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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  • David D Ebert, Department of Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Friedrich-Alexander University Nuremberg-Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany.
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  • Jennifer G Green, School of Education, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA.
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  • Irving Hwang, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
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  • Ronald C Kessler, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
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  • Howard Liu, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
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  • Matthew K Nock, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.
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  • Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, Laboratory for Neural Reconstruction, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02451, USA
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  • Nancy A Sampson, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
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  • Alan M Zaslavsky, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
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  • Jibril Abdulmalik, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
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  • Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, University of California Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, Sacramento, CA, USA.
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  • Ali Al-Hamzawi, College of Medicine, Al-Qadisiya University, Diwania Governorate, Iraq.
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  • Corina Benjet, Department of Epidemiologic and Psychosocial Research, National Institute of Psychiatry Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz, Mexico City, Mexico.
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  • Koen Demyttenaere, Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
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  • Silvia Florescu, National School of Public Health, Management and Professional Development, Bucharest, Romania.
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  • Giovanni De Girolamo, Unit of Epidemiological and Evaluation Psychiatry, Istituti di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS)-St. John of God Clinical Research Centre, Brescia, Italy.
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  • Oye Gureje, Department of Psychiatry, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria.
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  • Josep Maria Haro, Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu, CIBERSAM, Universitat de Barcelona, Sant Boi de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain.
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  • Chiyi Hu, Shenzhen Institute of Mental Health & Shenzhen Kangning Hospital, Shenzhen, China.
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  • Yueqin Huang, Institute of Mental Health, Peking University, Beijing, China.
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  • Peter De Jonge, Interdisciplinary Center Psychopathology and Emotion Regulation, Department of Psychiatry, University Medical, Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
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  • Elie G Karam, Institute for Development Research Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC), Beirut, Lebanon.
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  • Andrzej Kiejna, Department of Psychiatry, Wroclaw Medical University, Wroclaw, Poland.
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  • Viviane Kovess-Masfety, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique (EHESP), EA 4057 Paris Descartes University, Paris, France.
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  • Sing Lee, Department of Psychiatry, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Tai Po, Hong Kong.
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  • John J Mcgrath
  • Siobhan O'neill, School of Psychology and Psychology Research Institute, Ulster University, Magee campus, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, UK.
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  • Vladimir Nakov, Department of Mental Health, National Center of Public Health and Analyses, Sofia, Bulgaria.
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  • Beth-Ellen Pennell, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104, USA.
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  • Marina Piazza, National Institute of Health, Lima, Peru.
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  • José Posada-Villa, Faculty of Social Sciences, Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca University, Bogota, Colombia.
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  • Charlene Rapsey, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.
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  • Maria Carmen Viana, Department of Social Medicine, Federal University of Espírito Santo, Vitoria, Brazil.
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  • Miguel Xavier, Chronic Diseases Research Center (CEDOC) and Department of Mental Health, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Campo dos Mártires da Pátria, Lisbon, Portugal.
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  • Ronny Bruffaerts, Campus Gasthuisberg, Universitair Psychiatrisch Centrum - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (UPC-KUL), Leuven, Belgium.

PURPOSE: The primary aims are to (1) obtain representative prevalence estimates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB) among college students worldwide and (2) investigate whether STB is related to matriculation to and attrition from college.

METHODS: Data from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys were analyzed, which include face-to-face interviews with 5750 young adults aged 18-22 spanning 21 countries (weighted mean response rate = 71.4%). Standardized STB prevalence estimates were calculated for four well-defined groups of same-aged peers: college students, college attriters (i.e., dropouts), secondary school graduates who never entered college, and secondary school non-graduates. Logistic regression assessed the association between STB and college entrance as well as attrition from college.

RESULTS: Twelve-month STB in college students was 1.9%, a rate significantly lower than same-aged peers not in college (3.4%; OR 0.5; p < 0.01). Lifetime prevalence of STB with onset prior to age 18 among college entrants (i.e., college students or attriters) was 7.2%, a rate significantly lower than among non-college attenders (i.e., secondary school graduates or non-graduates; 8.2%; OR 0.7; p = 0.03). Pre-matriculation onset STB (but not post-matriculation onset STB) increased the odds of college attrition (OR 1.7; p < 0.01).

CONCLUSION: STB with onset prior to age 18 is associated with reduced likelihood of college entrance as well as greater attrition from college. Future prospective research should investigate the causality of these associations and determine whether targeting onset and persistence of childhood-adolescent onset STB leads to improved educational attainment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Volume53
Issue3
Pages (from-to)279-288
Number of pages10
ISSN0933-7954
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Journal Article

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