Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 53, Issue 9, pp 955–967 | Cite as

School poverty and the risk of attempted suicide among adolescents

  • Michael Fang
Original Paper



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.


Suicide School poverty Adolescents Gender 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population Studies Center, Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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