Suicidal ideation in adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic: prevalence and risk factors from a cross-sectional study in Geneva, Switzerland
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Unit of Population epidemiology - Geneva university hospital, Switzerland
Geneva University
Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Woman, Child, and Adolescent Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland
Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Woman, Child, and Adolescent Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland
Division and Department of Primary Care Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland
Publication date: 2023-04-26
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A1110
Background and Objectives:
Pandemic-related life changes may have had a deleterious impact on suicidal behaviours. Early detection of suicidal ideation and identification of subgroups at increased risk could help prevent suicide, one of the leading causes of death among adolescents worldwide. We aimed to investigate the prevalence and risk factors for suicidal ideation in adolescents, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

A population-based sample of adolescents (14-17 years old) included in a prospective cohort between December 2021 and June 2022 were invited to fill in an online questionnaire and were asked about suicidal ideation (“In the past 12 months, have you thought about suicide?”). We conducted a network analysis which identifies direct and indirect risk factors using mixed graphical modelling.

Among 505 adolescents, 15% (95%CI: 11.7-18.1) declared having experienced suicidal ideation over the previous year, and 2.5% (95%CI: 1.4-4.4) declared having ever attempted suicide. Using network analysis, we identified that strong psychological distress, belonging to a sexual minority (lesbian/gay/bisexual), low self-esteem and extensive screen time were direct risk factors for suicidal ideation. In addition, female gender, addiction to social media, bullying and health compromising behaviors (smoking/drug/alcohol use) were recognized as major indirect risk factors, as connected through intermediate risk factors. Parent/adolescent relationship had the highest centrality strength in the network analysis, hence substantial influence on the network information.

An alarming proportion of adolescents declared having had suicidal thoughts over the previous year, especially those with strong psychological distress, low self-esteem, belonging to a sexual minority or with extensive screen time. Research suggests that these risk factors were likely exacerbated by pandemic-related societal changes. Parent/adolescent relationship was identified as a strong influential domain on which targeted preventive efforts could have a considerable impact on reducing suicidal ideation.