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Depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation among Mexican-origin and Anglo adolescents.

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School of Public Health, University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center 77225.



To examine the prevalence of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation, their comorbidity, and associated risk factors in adolescence.


A self-administered questionnaire was completed in class by students in three middle schools (grades 6 through 8) enrolling more than 3,200 students. Usable questionnaires were obtained from 2,614 (81.5%), of which 924 were Anglo and 1,354 were of Mexican origin Depression was measured using the 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale and suicidal ideation using four items on thoughts of death and suicide.


The minority adolescents reported significantly higher crude prevalence rates of symptoms of depression and thoughts of suicide than their Anglo counterparts. Prevalence rates were highest for females of Mexican origin. There was a strong association between depression and suicidal ideation in both ethnic groups. Multivariate logistic regression analyses indicated significant correlates of depressive symptoms were suicidal ideation (adjusted odds ratio = 10.9), loneliness, and use of English, in that order. Significant correlates of suicidal ideation were depression (adjusted odds ratio = 10.6), loneliness, two-parent household, use of English, and being of Mexican origin. More than 80% of those with high ratings on suicidal ideation scored as depressed in both ethnic groups.


Results are consistent with other studies suggesting rates of suicidal ideation among adolescents are in the 10% to 20% range, while rates of depressive symptoms are in the 35% to 50% range using standard caseness scores. Mexican-American youths appear to be at higher risk than Anglo youths, particularly for suicidal ideation. In addition, it appears that youths who are lonely are more likely to report higher rates of both depression and suicidal ideation. The data also indicate that youths who spoke only or mostly English reported lower rates of depression and suicidal ideation, suggesting that acculturation may play a role as well.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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