Exposure to suicide and suicidal behaviors among Hong Kong adolescents

Joy P S Wong, Sunita M Stewart, S Y Ho, Uma Rao, T H Lam
Social Science & Medicine 2005, 61 (3): 591-9
Suicidal behaviors (deliberate self-injury with the intent to hurt or kill oneself) have been little examined outside the West. The aims of this study were to (a) determine the correlates of suicidal behaviors, and (b) examine whether depression and suicide ideation moderated the effects of exposure to completed and attempted suicide on suicidal behaviors among a community sample of Hong Kong youth ages 12-17. Adolescents responded to questions regarding self-injurious behaviors, and also indicated presence of intention to hurt or kill themselves in the past 12 months. Based on their responses, two groups of interest were formed: 96 youths reported both self-injurious behaviors and the intent to hurt or kill themselves, and formed the "suicidal behaviors" group; and, 1213 adolescents reported neither self-injurious behaviors nor intent to hurt self or die, and formed the control group. The participants also responded to questions about depressive symptoms, anxiety, suicidal ideation and attempt, alcohol/drug use, stressful life events, and family relationships. They indicated whether anyone they knew had attempted or completed suicide in the previous 12 months. Logistic regression indicated that depressive symptoms, stressful life events, suicidal ideation and exposure to suicide attempt (but not completed suicide) contributed unique variance to the presence of suicidal behaviors, after controlling for demographic variables. Depression (and at trend levels, suicidal ideation) moderated the effect of exposure to suicide attempt by others on suicidal behaviors. Our results indicate that completed suicide in the social network increases risk for suicidal behaviors, but not when other risk factors are controlled. By contrast, a suicide attempt independently increases risk for suicidal behaviors. Furthermore, those youths who experience depressive symptoms or suicidal ideation are at particularly high risk for engaging in suicidal behaviors when an exposure to suicide attempt occurs.

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