Abstract: Risk Factors Associated with Suicide Attempts in U.S High School Students Since 2005: A Replication Study (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Risk Factors Associated with Suicide Attempts in U.S High School Students Since 2005: A Replication Study

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Maryvale B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Catalina Cañizares, Masters in Clinical Psychology, PhD Student, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Mark Macgowan, PhD, Professor of Social Work & Associate Dean, Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, Florida International University, Miami, FL

Suicide attempts among youth are a major public health concern in the U.S.. Between 2009 and 2019, there was a significant increase in the prevalence of adolescents attempting suicide (Jones et al., 2022). Using analyses based on data from the 2001 Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System (YRBSS), Bae and Colleagues identified individual factors that may trigger suicide attempts (Bae et al., 2005). This study aims to test Bae and colleagues’ model using more recent and much larger YRBSS data to determine if individual factors remain as predictors of suicide attempts among high school students.


The data come from the biennial YRBSS combined dataset for high school students from 2003 to 2019 (N = 412,754 adolescents). Logistic regression was used to test the predictors drawn from Bae and colleagues’ model (Odds Ratio, OR). The analysis considered the sample weights, so over 11 million observations were included.


Being injured by a weapon (OR = 1.36, 95% CI [1.08 -1.71], p < 0.01), involved in a physical fight (OR = 1.33, 95% CI [1.11 - 1.59], p < 0.01) , forced to have sexual relationships (OR = 2.09 , 95% CI [1.59 - 2.52], p < 0.01), consuming alcohol (OR = 1.34, 95% CI [1.11 - 1.61], p < 0.01) or hallucinogenic drugs (OR = 1.41, 95% CI [1.02-1.93], p < 0.05), inhaling a chemical to get high (OR = 1.31, 95% CI [1.00-1.71], p < 0.01) , feeling hopeless (OR = 1.77 , 95% C1 [1.51 – 2.07], p < 0.01), underweight (OR = 1.61 , 95% CI [1.52 - 2.62], p < 0.01) or overweight (OR = 1.55 , 95% CI [1.33 – 2.14], p < 0.01), were predictors of attempting suicide when controlling for sex and grade.

Risk behaviors were different between sexes; in females physical fights, inhaling chemicals to get high, consuming hallucinogenic drugs, being underweight were significant predictors, but not for males. Additionally, for females, being sexually abused showed higher odd ratios (OR = 2.17, 95% CI [1.67 – 2.83], p <0.01) compared to males (OR = 1.67, 95% CI [1.08 – 2.58], p <0.05).


Similar to the results found by Bae and colleagues, most risk factors contributed significantly to suicide attempts, with ORs within the same 95% confidence interval. Both studies also found more predictors for females than males. However, unlike Bae and colleagues, being hurt by a partner and offered drugs in schools were no longer significant predictors of suicide attempts.

The findings in this study identify persistent risk factors that should be a part of suicide prevention programs in high schools nationwide.