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An examination of the association between risky sexual behaviors and suicidal behaviors among adolescents: Findings from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Abstract

Although various studies have examined the association between risky sexual behaviors and mental health outcomes, few studies have investigated the association between risky sexual behaviors and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among adolescents. The objective of this study was to investigate the association between risky sexual behaviors and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among adolescents from the United States. Data for this study came from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. An analytic sample of 5,125 adolescents aged 14–18 years (50.1% female) who have ever had sexual intercourse was analyzed using binary logistic regression. The outcome variables examined were suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, and the main explanatory variable was risky sexual behaviors. Among the 5,125 adolescents who have ever had sexual intercourse, 22.8% experienced suicidal ideation, and 11.6% attempted suicide during the past 12 months. In the multivariable logistic regression, adolescents who had unprotected sexual intercourse had 1.24 times higher odds of reporting suicidal ideation (AOR = 1.24, p < .05, 95% CI = 1.01–1.54). In addition, adolescents who had four or more sexual partners in their lifetime had 1.61 times higher odds of making a suicide attempt (AOR = 1.61, p < .001, 95% CI = 1.25–2.07). Other significant factors associated with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts include being a sexual minority, being a victim of sexual violence, experiencing school bullying and cyberbullying victimization, having symptoms of depression, and misusing prescription pain medication. The findings of the present study highlight the association between risky sexual behaviors and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts among adolescents.

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This research is based on a publicly available data. Data would be made available upon request.

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Acknowledgements

This paper is based on public data from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of CDC or that of its partners. Dr. Baiden had full access to the data and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. Philip Baiden would like to gratefully acknowledge support received from the Jillian Michelle Smith Professorship in Family Violence Research at the University of Texas at Arlington, School of Social Work.

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No funding was obtained for the conduction of this research.

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All authors were involved in drafting the manuscript or revising it critically for important intellectual content, and all authors approved the final version to be published. Dr. Baiden had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Philip Baiden: Conceptualization, Methodology, Investigation, Data curation, Formal analysis, Writing—review & editing.

Nusrat Jahan: Writing—original draft, Writing—review & editing.

Vera Mets: Writing—original draft, Writing—review & editing.

Yvonne Adeku: Writing—review & editing.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Philip Baiden.

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The current study was exempted from IRB approval by the lead author’s institution as the data had already been de-identified and did not contain any personal information.

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Baiden, P., Jahan, N., Mets, V.E. et al. An examination of the association between risky sexual behaviors and suicidal behaviors among adolescents: Findings from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Curr Psychol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-02328-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-02328-9

Keywords

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Adolescents