Suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm among university students: prevalence study

Sivertsen, B., Hysing, M., Knapstad, M., Harvey, A. G., Reneflot, A., Lønning, K. J. and O'Connor, R. C. (2019) Suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm among university students: prevalence study. BJPsych Open, 5(2), e26. (doi: 10.1192/bjo.2019.4) (PMID:31068238) (PMCID:PMC6401540)

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Abstract

Background: Suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm (NSSH) are major public health concerns that affect millions of young people worldwide. Consequently, there is a strong need for up-to-date epidemiological data in this population. Aims: To provide prevalence and trend estimates of suicidal thoughts and behaviours and NSSH thoughts and behaviour in university students. Method: Data are from a 2018 national health survey for higher education in Norway. A total of 50 054 full-time students (69.1% women) aged 18–35 years participated (response rate 31%). Suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and NSSH were assessed with three items drawn from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, and thoughts of NSSH were assessed with one item from the Child and Adolescent Self-Harm in Europe study. Results: Lifetime suicidal thoughts were reported by 21.0%, and 7.2% reported having such thoughts within the past year. In total, 4.2% reported a suicide attempt, of whom 0.4% reported attempting suicide within the past year. The prevalence of lifetime NSSH behaviour and thoughts was 19.6% and 22.6%, respectively. All four suicidal behaviour and NSSH variables were more common among students who were single, living alone and with a low annual income, as well as among immigrants. There was an increase in suicidal thoughts from 2010 (7.7%) to 2018 (11.4%), which was evident in both men and women. Conclusions: The observed high and increasing prevalence of suicidal thoughts and NSSH among college and university students is alarming, underscoring the need for further research, preferably registry-linked studies, to confirm whether the reported prevalence is representative of the student population as a whole.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:SHoT2018 has received funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research (2017) and the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services (2016).
Keywords:Deliberate self-harm, epidemiology, suicide
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:O'Connor, Professor Rory
Authors: Sivertsen, B., Hysing, M., Knapstad, M., Harvey, A. G., Reneflot, A., Lønning, K. J., and O'Connor, R. C.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:BJPsych Open
Publisher:Royal College of Psychiatrists
ISSN:2056-4724
ISSN (Online):2056-4724
Published Online:05 March 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Royal College of Psychiatrists
First Published:First published in BJPsych Open 5(2):e26
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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