Suicide Risk Factors in U.S. College Students: Perceptions Differ in Men and Women

“Suicide Risk Factors in U.S. College Students: Perceptions Differ in Men and Women”, led by Neil Seeman, RIWI CEO and Senior Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College, has now been published in the peer-reviewed open-access journal Suicidology Online.

According to the authors, gender differences in the general population or in student views about perceived suicide risk factors have not previously been reported in the academic literature.

Using RIWI’s proprietary data collection systems, an anonymous online random survey of 3,762 Americans – half of whom self-identified as college-age students – studied perceptions of the triggers of suicide risk and suicide prevention on campus. Participants were asked about perceived factors contributing to suicide among college students, and for suggestions about effective means of prevention.

The study was made possible by RIWI’s privacy-compliant, patented global data collection technology, which allowed for the researchers to collect opinions on highly sensitive subject matter with anonymity and safety to make for the highest quality, scientifically reproducible true random response survey data.

Study Highlights:

  • The major finding of this large population survey was that male respondents, as compared to female respondents, considered academic competition, financial pressure, and work overload to be critical determinants of suicide whereas women respondents more than their male counterparts were sensitive to the potential harms of heartbreak, family pressure and prior mental illness.
  • With respect to preventive measures, no one method was significantly preferred to any other. The markedly different perceptions of men and women about suicide risks for college youth suggests that effective interventions need to include a variety of different approaches, some of which may need to be sex-specific.
  • The results of this research suggest that the suicide risk status of male students rises in proportion to academic competition, financial pressure, and work overload while, for female students, it is especially high for those with a history of mental illness and for those experiencing family pressure, and social isolation. Both male and female students are at high risk during periods of relational turmoil and heartbreak. Counsellors on campus need to be attuned to these gender differences because risk formulation forms the basis of all preventive measures.