Between 16 and 18% of preadolescents have ideas of suicide

Summary: Between 16-18% of preteens experience suicidal ideation, a new study reports. In young boys, previous depressive symptoms were linked to suicidal thoughts, whereas girls were more likely to have suicidal ideations as a result of anxiety and OCD.

Source: Universitat Rovira i Virgili

Researchers studied a group of 720 boys and 794 girls who studied in 13 schools in Reus. They were monitored during three developmental periods: 10 years old, 11 years old and 13 years old. At the beginning of the study, the students answered a series of psychological tests that were used to detect which of them presented emotional symptoms related to depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). From their responses, two groups were created: one group at risk of emotional problems and a control group.

The disorders were diagnosed with standardized international criteria and the boys and girls were monitored to see how suicidal ideation developed throughout the research period.

The figures were quite stable. During the first period, 16% of the students stated that they had thought about suicide, of whom 33% stated the same one year later. In both the second and the third period, ideas of suicide were expressed by 18% of the students surveyed. The risk of suicide was determined in a personal interview and was present in 12.2% of the children with an average age of 11 years old. Although there were no differences between the sexes, the severity of the suicidal behavior was greater in boys.

The researchers also observed what factors predicted suicidal ideation and they found here that there were differences between the sexes. “In boys, it is previous depressive symptoms which determine subsequent suicidal ideation,” says Núria Voltas, one of the researchers involved in the study. In girls, on the other hand, it is a combination of anxiety symptoms, OCD and the family’s socioeconomic situation.

This shows a sad looking boy looking out of a window

The disorders were diagnosed with standardised international criteria and the boys and girls were monitored to see how suicidal ideation developed throughout the research period. The image is in the public domain.

The results of this research, published in the scientific journal Archives of Suicide Studies reveal the factors that can trigger ideas of suicide in this age group. “Our results will enable us to have greater control over this particular aspect and take preventive measures in preadolescents, who are going through a period of considerable vulnerability,” she concludes.

About this neuroscience research article

Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Media Contacts:
Núria Voltas – Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Closed access
“Suicidality in a Community Sample of Early Adolescents: A Three-Phase Follow-Up Study”. Núria Voltas, Carmen Hernández-Martínez, Victoria Arija & Josefa Canals.
Archives of Suicide Research. doi:10.1080/13811118.2019.1588816


Suicidality in a Community Sample of Early Adolescents: A Three-Phase Follow-Up Study

The aim of the study was to collect data on suicidal ideation and suicidal risk prevalence in a three-phase epidemiological study. In the first phase, 1,514 participants (720 boys; mean age = 10.2) filled out the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) and other psychopathological tests. 562 individuals (mean age = 11.3) were selected to participate in the second phase as at-risk individuals of emotional disorders or as controls, and the CDI and the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview for Children and Adolescents (M.I.N.I.-Kid) were administered. In the third phase, the participants (245; mean age = 13.5) filled out the Youth’s Inventory-4. The results of the CDI indicated that 15.9% of the participants showed suicidal ideation in the first phase, and 18.2% and 18.0% in the second and third phases, respectively. 33.0% of the participants persisted at 1 year of follow-up with suicidal ideation. The M.I.N.I.-Kid showed 12.2% past suicidal risk and current risk of 2.4%. The current suicidal risk was mainly related to depressive disorders (OR 30.3). Predictors of current suicidal risk for boys included having previous depressive symptoms. For girls predictors included having previous anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and lower socioeconomic status. Spanish early adolescents had relevant rates of suicidal behavior; thus, it is important to create and apply prevention programs that consider the risk factors.

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