Suicidal behaviours in adolescents in Nova Scotia, Canada: protective associations with measures of social capital

Donald B Langille, Mark Asbridge, Steve Kisely, Daniel Rasic
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2012, 47 (10): 1549-55

PURPOSE: Few studies of adolescent suicidality have examined its associations with social capital. We explored associations of measures of individual level social capital with self-reported suicide ideation and suicide attempt in adolescents in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, controlling for other factors known to be associated with adolescent suicidality.

METHODS: We surveyed 1,597 grade 10-12 students at three high schools in 2006 using self-completion questionnaires. Both sexes were combined for analysis. Outcome measures were suicidal ideation and attempt in the previous year. Measures of social capital included perceptions of trustworthiness and helpfulness of others at school, frequency of religious attendance and participation in extracurricular activities. Logistic regressions were carried out to determine associations of social capital with suicidality while controlling for other factors.

RESULTS: Perceived trustworthiness and helpfulness were protective for suicidal ideation and suicide attempt in the previous year. In adjusted analyses, there were interactions of gender and social capital-females reporting more social capital were more protected from suicide attempt relative to males with similar levels of social capital.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides initial evidence of protective associations of individual level social capital with adolescent suicidality. Our findings suggest that among adolescents low social capital as measured by perceptions of trust and helpfulness of others at school may be a warning sign for suicidality, particularly for females. It may be helpful to inquire of young people how they perceive the trustworthiness and helpfulness of their school environment as a measure of how supportive that environment might be to them when they are facing challenges to their mental health.

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