Long-term economic and social outcomes of youth suicide attempts

Br J Psychiatry. 2021 Sep 16;1-7. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2021.133. Online ahead of print.


Background: Youth who attempt suicide are more at risk for later mental disorders and suicide. However, little is known about their long-term socioeconomic outcomes.

Aims: We investigated associations between youth suicide attempts and adult economic and social outcomes.

Method: Participants were drawn from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Kindergarten Children (n = 2140) and followed up from ages 6 to 37 years. Lifetime suicide attempt was assessed at 15 and 22 years. Economic (employment earnings, retirement savings, welfare support, bankruptcy) and social (romantic partnership, separation/divorce, number of children) outcomes were assessed through data linkage with government tax return records obtained from age 22 to 37 years (2002-2017). Generalised linear models were used to test the association between youth suicide attempt and outcomes adjusting for background characteristics, parental mental disorders and suicide, and youth concurrent mental disorders.

Results: By age 22, 210 youths (9.8%) had attempted suicide. In fully adjusted models, youth who attempted suicide had lower annual earnings (average last 5 years, US$ -4134, 95% CI -7950 to -317), retirement savings (average last 5 years, US$ -1387, 95% CI -2982 to 209), greater risk of receiving welfare support (risk ratio (RR) = 2.05, 95% CI 1.39 to 3.04) and were less likely to be married/cohabiting (RR = 0.82, 95% CI 0.73 to 0.93), compared with those who did not attempt suicide. Over a 40-year working career, the loss of individual earnings attributable to suicide attempts was estimated at US$98 384.

Conclusions: Youth who attempt suicide are at risk of poor adult socioeconomic outcomes. Findings underscore the importance of psychosocial interventions for young people who have attempted suicide to prevent long-term social and economic disadvantage.

Keywords: Suicide; economic outcomes; linked administrative data; longitudinal; social outcomes.