How Illegal Drug Use, Alcohol Use, Tobacco Use, and Depressive Symptoms Affect Adolescent Suicidal Ideation: A Secondary Analysis of the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey

Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2015 Aug;36(8):614-20. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2015.1015697.


The purpose of this study was to identify the major risk factors among adolescents who have either contemplated or attempted suicide. Along with successful suicides, suicide attempts and contemplation are coexisting factors that are prominent in the adolescent population and therefore warrant major concern. A secondary data analysis of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was completed to explore the factors that may influence adolescents' thoughts or actions about suicidal behavior. The YRBS represents high-school students throughout 50 states. Nine questions from the YRBS were used to elicit information about the relationships among the risk factors: (1) Suicidal thoughts and attempts; (2) illegal drug use; (3) alcohol use; (4) tobacco use; and (5) depressive symptoms. Statistically significant relationships among the risk factors were found for adolescents. Adolescents considered suicide (15.8%); attempted suicide at least once (7.8%); were injured while attempting suicide (n = 2.7%). Our findings support the idea that illegal substance use can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Depression had a positive relationship with suicidal ideations, supporting similar studies suggesting that depression leads to suicidal action.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Tobacco Use / psychology*