Adolescents' self-reported suicide attempts, self-harm thoughts and their correlates across 17 European countries.J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2012; 53(4):381-9JC
Suicide is a leading cause of death among adolescents in Europe. Self-harm thoughts and behaviours are documented precursors of completed suicide. It is therefore of great importance to investigate the prevalence of suicide thoughts and attempts and their correlates, with the aim of preventing this major life-threatening public health problem. This study provides cross-national European data on self-reported suicidal thoughts and attempts among adolescents.
Data were obtained from 45,806 high school students aged 15-16 years from 17 countries that participated in the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) 2007 school survey. The standardised methods of the ESPAD survey ensure comparability across countries. Students completed an anonymous questionnaire in their classrooms. The prevalences of suicidal thoughts and attempts are reported as well as their sociodemographic and psychosocial correlates identified in logistic regression.
The median prevalence of any lifetime self-reported suicide attempt was 10.5% across the participating countries (range 4.1%-23.5%). The median of frequent self-harm thoughts (at least five times) was 7.4% (range 2.1%-15.3%). Suicidal behaviour and thoughts had significant associations with gender, substance use, family integrity and socioeconomic status. Countries with higher prevalence of substance use tended to have a weaker association between substance use and self-reported suicide attempts.
Although self-reported self-harm thoughts and suicide attempts vary in prevalence within Europe, there are common correlates across countries. These have an important impact on understanding the phenomenon of suicide among young people and in guiding prevention.