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The associations between health risk behaviours and suicidal ideation and attempts in a nationally representative sample of young adolescents

Tracie O Afifi, Brian J Cox, Laurence Y Katz
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie 2007, 52 (10): 666-74
18020114

OBJECTIVE: To examine associations between health risk behaviours and suicidal ideation and attempts in Canadian adolescents aged 12 to 13 years. Young adolescents think about and attempt suicide. However, most existing research on suicide has been conducted on individuals aged 15 years and older.

METHOD: The present study examined a nationally representative Canadian sample of adolescents aged 12 to 13 years (n=2090). Health risk behaviours included disruptive (shoplifting, physical fighting, damaging property, fighting with a weapon, carrying a knife, and gambling), sexual (petting below the waist and sexual intercourse), and substance use behaviours (smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol, marijuana or hash, and glue or solvents). Unadjusted and adjusted (for all significant health risk behaviour and psychiatric symptoms) models were tested.

RESULTS: All health risk behaviours were common among male and female adolescents. In unadjusted models, almost all health risk behaviours were associated with suicidal ideation and attempts among adolescent boys. In adjusted models, only damaging property, sexual intercourse, and smoking cigarettes remained statistically associated with suicidal ideation, while smoking cigarettes and using marijuana or hash remained statistically associated with suicide attempts among adolescent boys. All health risk behaviours were statistically associated with suicidal ideation and attempts among female adolescents in unadjusted models. In adjusted models, only carrying a knife remained statistically associated with suicidal ideation, while shoplifting and gambling remained statistically associated with suicide attempts among adolescent girls.

CONCLUSIONS: Health risk behaviours among young adolescents are associated with suicidal ideation and attempts among young adolescents. Recognizing health risk behaviours among young adolescents may be one means of understanding who among them is at increased risk of suicidality.

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