Studies have found an association between recent arrest and suicide attempts, but the population-level significance of this link has not been reported. We estimated the population attributable risk percent (PAR%) of self-reported non-fatal suicide attempts based on recent arrest in a national sample of adult men.
This study included men aged ≥18 who completed the 2008–2019 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. The outcome measure was any non-fatal suicide attempts in the past year. The primary independent variable was any arrest in the past year. Major depression and substance use disorders were also included as independent variables for comparison. Descriptive statistics and multivariate logistic regression with postestimation marginal effects ascertained the PAR% of non-fatal suicide attempts for arrest, major depression, and substance use disorders, while controlling for sociodemographic covariates. All analyses applied survey weights. We disaggregated analyses by race/ethnicity.
In the sample of 220,261 men, arrest accounted for 8.9% (99% CI 5.1 to 12.6%, p < 0.001) of non-fatal suicide attempts, while major depression accounted for 40.3% (99% CI 35.0 to 45.1%. p < 0.001) and substance use disorders for 24.1% (99% CI 17.6 to 30.2%, p < 0.001). After disaggregating by race/ethnicity, arrest accounted for 9.5% (99% CI 4.5 to 14.3%, p < 0.001) of suicide attempts among Non-Hispanic White men and fell short of statistical significance for Non-Hispanic Black men (10.2, 99% CI − 3.0 to 21.6%, p = 0.043) and Hispanic men (8.1, 99% CI − 0.5 to 15.9%, p = 0.016).
Arrest accounted for nearly one in eleven non-fatal suicide attempts in a national sample of American men, which is by extension about 50,000 suicide attempts per year. Results were similar for Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic men, although there were differences in prevalence of arrest and suicide attempts. Unlike major depression, arrest is an easily identifiable event, and the period after arrest might provide an opportunity to support mental health and coping.