Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 807–817 | Cite as

Epidemiology of Suicide Attempts among Youth Transitioning to Adulthood

Empirical Research


Suicide is the second leading cause of death for older adolescents and young adults. Although empirical literature has identified important risk factors of suicidal behavior, it is less understood if changes in risk factors correspond with changes in suicide risk. To address this knowledge gap, we assessed if there were different trajectories of suicidal behavior as youth transition into young adulthood and determined what time-varying risk factors predicted these trajectories. This study used four waves of data spanning approximately 13 years from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The sample included 9027 respondents who were 12–18 years old (M = 15.26; SD = 1.76) at Wave 1, 50% male, 17% Hispanic, and 58% White. The results indicated that 93.6% of the sample had a low likelihood for suicide attempts across time, 5.1% had an elevated likelihood of attempting suicide in adolescence but not young adulthood, and 1.3% had an elevated likelihood of attempting suicide during adolescence and adulthood. The likelihood of a suicide attempt corresponded with changes on depression, impulsivity, delinquency, alcohol problems, family and friend suicide history, and experience with partner violence. Determining how suicide risk changes as youth transition into young adulthood and what factors predict these changes can help prevent suicide. Interventions targeting these risk factors could lead to reductions in suicide attempts.


Suicidal behavior Suicide risk Suicide Emerging adulthood Trajectories Longitudinal design 



This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations.


This research was supported by a Distinguished Investigator Grant (0-138-13) awarded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to the first author.

Authors’ Contributions

M.T. conceived of the study, acquired the data, participated in the study plan, reviewed statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript; K.S. participated in the design of the study plan, performed the statistical analysis, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

The analysis of the restricted data presented in the study detailed in this manuscript was approved by Clemson University’s IRB.

Informed Consent

Add Health participants provided written informed consent for participation in all aspects of Add Health in accordance with the University of North Carolina School of Public Health Institutional Review Board guidelines that are based on the Code of Federal Regulations on the Protection of Human Subjects 45CFR46.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Youth, Family, and Community StudiesClemson University, ClemsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyGeorgia State University, AtlantaUSA

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