Existing theory and empirical work suggest that impoverished school contexts may increase the risk of mental health problems such as suicide. This study tests this hypothesis by investigating the longitudinal association between school income and attempted suicide among American adolescents.
Logistic regression models were used to estimate the association between school income and suicidal attempts among all adolescents and among those with suicidal thoughts, respectively. Data come from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative sample of American adolescents across 132 middle and high schools (N = 12,920).
Among all adolescents, the prevalence of attempted suicide was higher in low-income schools compared to middle-income schools for boys but not girls. Among those with suicidal thoughts, the prevalence of attempted suicide was also higher in low-income schools compared to middle- and high-income schools for boys only. Differences between middle- and high-income schools were not observed, suggesting that school income may only impact attempted suicide when high levels of deprivation are present. These significant associations persisted after adjusting for established risk factors such as prior suicidal attempts.
Highly impoverished school contexts may increase the risk of attempted suicide for boys. Future research exploring the mechanisms underlying this association may help inform the development of more effective suicide-prevention interventions.