Nonsuicidal Self-Injury and Suicidal Risk Among Emerging Adults

Hamza, C.A. & Willoughby, T. Journal of Adolescent Health. Published online: 30 July 2016

Purpose: Although nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) has been differentiated from suicidal behavior on the basis of nonlethal intent in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, NSSI often is associated with increased suicidal risk. However, there is a paucity of large-scale longitudinal examinations on the associations among NSSI, suicidal ideation, and suicidal attempts, particularly among community-based samples. In the present study, we examined whether NSSI in first-year university was associated with increased risk for later suicidal ideation and attempts over time among students.

Methods: Participants included 940 emerging adults (70.8% female, mean age = 19.05 years) from a mid-sized Canadian university who volunteered to participate in a longitudinal research project starting in first-year university (participants were surveyed annually over five waves).

Results: Binary logistic regression analyses revealed that the odds of experiencing suicidal ideation across times 2–5 were 2.04 times as high for emerging adults who engaged in NSSI at baseline (even after controlling for suicidal ideation and attempts at baseline) as for individuals who did not engage in NSSI. Furthermore, the odds of attempting suicide across times 2–5 were 3.46 times as high for emerging adults who engaged in NSSI at baseline (even after controlling for suicidal ideation and attempts at baseline) as for individuals who did not engage in NSSI.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that the presence of NSSI in first-year university may be an important marker of later suicidal risk, reflecting increased risk for both suicidal ideation and attempts across the university years among emerging adults.

Read the abstract here

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