Vulnerability and resiliency to suicidal behaviours in young people

Psychol Med. 2003 Jan;33(1):61-73. doi: 10.1017/s0033291702006748.


Background: We aimed to examine factors that influence vulnerability/resiliency of depressed young people to suicidal ideation and suicide attempt.

Method: Data were gathered during a 21-year longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1,265 New Zealand young people. Measures included: suicide attempt; suicidal ideation; major depression; childhood, family, individual and peer factors.

Results: Young people who developed major depression had increased rates of suicidal ideation (OR = 54: 95% CI 4.5-6.6) and suicide attempt (OR = 12.1; 95% CI 7.9-18.5). However, the majority of depressed young people did not develop suicidal ideation or make suicide attempts, suggesting that additional factors influence vulnerability or resiliency to suicidal responses. Factors influencing resiliency/vulnerability to suicidal responses included: family history of suicide; childhood sexual abuse; neuroticism; novelty seeking; self-esteem; peer affiliations; and school achievement. These factors operated in the same way to influence vulnerability/resiliency among those depressed and those not depressed.

Conclusions: Vulnerability/resiliency to suicidal responses among those depressed (and those not depressed) is influenced by an accumulation of factors including: family history of suicide, childhood sexual abuse, personality factors, peer affiliations and school success. Positive configurations of these factors confer increased resiliency, whereas negative configurations increase vulnerability.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child Abuse, Sexual
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Peer Group
  • Personality
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data