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Between 16% and 18% of preadolescents have ideas of suicide

Up to 18% of preadolescents have ideas of suicide, with the main risk factors including depressive symptoms, anxiety and compulsive obsessive disorder.

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Up to 18% of preadolescents have ideas of suicide, with the main risk factors including depressive symptoms, anxiety and compulsive obsessive disorder. This is according to “Suicidality in a Community Sample of Early Adolescents: A Three-Phase Follow-Up Study”, done by Voltas, N., Hernández-Martínez, C., Arija, V. and Canals, J.

In the study, the 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 standardised 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 behaviour 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.

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 prevention measures in preadolescents, who are going through a period of considerable vulnerability,” she concludes.

This is a noteworthy study, considering other – and earlier – studies have repeatedly highlighted how members of the LGBTQIA community are greatly affected by suicide. In 2018, for instance, a study from the University of Arizona noted that 50.8% of transmasculine adolescents between the ages of 11 and 19 have attempted suicide at least once, while 41.8% of nonbinary adolescents – those who don’t identify as exclusively male or exclusively female – have attempted suicide.

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Still another study – also done in 2018 – that appeared in Pediatrics noted that almost 14% of adolescents reported a previous suicide attempt, with disparities by gender identity in suicide attempts. Female to male adolescents reported the highest rate of attempted suicide (50.8%), followed by adolescents who identified as not exclusively male or female (41.8%).


Still another study – also done in 2018 – that appeared in LGBT Health found that a total of 37% of trans respondents reported having seriously considered suicide during the past 12 months and 32% had ever attempted a suicide. Offensive treatment during the past three months and lifetime exposure to trans-related violence were significantly associated with suicidality. 


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