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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2018 Mar;53(3):279-288. doi: 10.1007/s00127-018-1481-6. Epub 2018 Jan 16.

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

Author information

1
Research Group Psychiatry, Department of Neurosciences, KU Leuven University, Herestraat 49, 3000, Leuven, Belgium. philippe.mortier@uzleuven.be.
2
Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
3
Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA.
4
Health Services Research Unit, IMIM-Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute, Barcelona, Spain.
5
Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), Barcelona, Spain.
6
CIBER en Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Barcelona, Spain.
7
Population Studies Center, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research and the Department of Sociology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
8
Department of Clinical, Neuro, and Developmental Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
9
EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
10
Department of Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Friedrich-Alexander University Nuremberg-Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany.
11
School of Education, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA.
12
Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
13
Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.
14
Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.
15
McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA.
16
Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
17
University of California Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, Sacramento, CA, USA.
18
College of Medicine, Al-Qadisiya University, Diwania Governorate, Iraq.
19
Department of Epidemiologic and Psychosocial Research, National Institute of Psychiatry Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz, Mexico City, Mexico.
20
Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
21
National School of Public Health, Management and Professional Development, Bucharest, Romania.
22
Unit of Epidemiological and Evaluation Psychiatry, Istituti di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS)-St. John of God Clinical Research Centre, Brescia, Italy.
23
Department of Psychiatry, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria.
24
Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu, CIBERSAM, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
25
Shenzhen Institute of Mental Health, Shenzhen Kangning Hospital, Shenzhen, China.
26
Institute of Mental Health, Peking University, Beijing, China.
27
Developmental Psychology, Department of Psychology, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
28
Center Psychopathology and Emotion Regulation, Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
29
Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Medicine, Balamand University, Beirut, Lebanon.
30
Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, St George Hospital University Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon.
31
Institute for Development Research Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC), Beirut, Lebanon.
32
Department of Psychiatry, Wroclaw Medical University, Wroclaw, Poland.
33
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique (EHESP), EA 4057 Paris Descartes University, Paris, France.
34
Department of Psychiatry, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Tai Po, Hong Kong.
35
Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, The Park Centre for Mental Health, Wacol, QLD, 4072, Australia.
36
Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, 4065, Australia.
37
National Centre for Register-based Research, Aarhus University, Aarhus, V 8000, Denmark.
38
School of Psychology, Ulster University, Londonderry, UK.
39
Department of Mental Health, National Center of Public Health and Analyses, Sofia, Bulgaria.
40
Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
41
Universidad Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru.
42
National Institute of Health, Lima, Peru.
43
Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Bogota, Colombia.
44
Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
45
Department of Social Medicine, Federal University of Espírito Santo, Vitoria, Brazil.
46
Chronic Diseases Research Center (CEDOC) and Department of Mental Health, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal.
47
Universitair Psychiatrisch Centrum - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (UPC-KUL), Campus Gasthuisberg, Leuven, Belgium.

Abstract

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.

KEYWORDS:

Academic performance; College student; Epidemiology; Suicidal thoughts and behaviors; Young adult

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