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J Affect Disord. 2010 Dec;127(1-3):287-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.04.017. Epub 2010 May 14.

Prevalence and predictors of persistent suicide ideation, plans, and attempts during college.

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Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA.



Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students in the U.S. and is preventable. Approximately 1100 college students die by suicide each year. This study examined the prevalence and predictors of one-time and persistent suicide ideation, plans, and attempts reported during college.


Data were gathered prospectively over four years. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 1253 first-year college students at one large mid-Atlantic university. Risk factors were measured in Year 1.


An estimated 12%(wt) of individuals experienced suicide ideation at some point during college, and of those individuals, 25% had more than one episode of ideation (persistent ideation; 2.6%(wt) of the overall sample). Ten individuals had a plan or attempt during college (0.9%(wt) of the sample). Risk factors for persistent suicide ideation included low social support, childhood or adolescent exposure to domestic violence, maternal depression, and high self-reported depressive symptoms. Persistent ideators differed from one-time ideators only by higher levels of depression (p=.027). Persistent ideators were no more likely than one-time ideators to have made a suicide plan or attempt during college (8% vs. 9%, respectively).


Although the sample size is large, only a small percentage of participants had persistent ideation, suicide plans or attempts during college.


These results have implications for programs aimed at identifying college students at risk for suicide. The accurate identification of college students at risk for suicide is an important step toward suicide prevention.

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