Dating violence and sexual assault associated with suicide attempts among urban teens

Recent dating violence among urban teen females and lifetime history of sexual assault among urban teen males may be associated with suicide attempts, according to a report in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents, according to background information in the article. In 2003, 6.5 per 100,000 U.S. teenagers aged 14 to 19 years committed suicide. In 2005, more than 8 percent of high school students reported one or more suicide attempts in the previous year. Childhood sexual assault has been linked with depression, alcohol use and violence, making it a likely risk factor for a suicide attempt. Dating violence has also been shown to be associated with depressive symptoms and multiple health-compromising behaviors, the authors write.

Elyse Olshen, M.D., M.P.H., of Columbia University Medical Center, New York, and colleagues analyzed self-administered, anonymous questionnaires completed by 8,080 students (age 14 and older) from 87 New York City public high schools in 2005. The surveys measured different risk behaviors such as use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, unintentional injury and violence, sexual behaviors, dietary behaviors and physical activity. Students were also asked how many times they had attempted suicide, if they had experienced dating violence and if they had been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months.

Females made up 51 percent of the students and those who responded were primarily not white (40.1 percent Hispanic, 36 percent black, 16 percent Asian/other and 7.9 percent white). Persistent sadness (feeling sad or hopeless daily for two weeks in a row during the past year) occurred in 40.2 percent of female students and 24.2 percent of male students; also, 19.9 percent of females and 10.3 percent of males reported suicidal ideation [suicidal thoughts or behaviors] or seriously considering attemptin

Contact: Elizabeth Streich
JAMA and Archives Journals

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