1 out of 10 Spanish university students has experienced suicidal thoughts during the first year of their degree

Around 10% of Spanish university students say that they have experienced suicidal thoughts, and just under 1% that they have attempted suicide, in the last 12 months, with no differences detected in relation to the gender of those questioned. These data are extracted from the UNIVERSAL (University and Mental Health) Study, a Spanish multi-centre project, coordinated by the IMIM, which has examined the factors associated with mental health among young people commencing their university careers, in addition to identifying those factors that promote mental health or that place it at risk. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world among the population aged between 15 and 29 years old.

The study shows that positive relations with peers and a positive family environment during childhood act as protective factors against suicidal thoughts

The study was conducted through surveys of 2,118 students from 5 universities in Spain: Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), Balearic Islands University (UIB), University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU), University of Cadiz (UCA) and Miguel Hernández University (UMH). This is the first study of these characteristics undertaken in Spain.

According to the researchers, “the main risk factors for suicidal ideation include family aspects, recent stressful events, as well as current mental health. These risk factors can be: parental psychopathology, sexual aggression or rape in the previous year, and suffering or having suffered a mood or anxiety disorder”. The study also identifies protective factors against suicidal ideation, such as positive relations with peers and with the family during childhood.

The UNIVERSAL study includes monitoring of the students over several years, which will enable identification of individualised risk profiles. These first results highlight the need to pro-actively detect at an early stage the risk of suicidal ideation and conduct among university students in order to be able to offer effective care.


Reference article

Blasco MJ, Vilagut G, Almenara J, Roca M, Piqueras JA, Gabilondo A, Lagares C, Soto-Sanz V, Alayo I, Forero CG, Echeburúa I, Gili M, Cebrià AI, Bruffaerts R, Auerbach RP, Nock MK, Kessler RC, Alonso J on behalf of the UNIVERSAL study group. (2018) Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors: Prevalence and Association with Distal and Proximal Factors in Spanish University Students. Suicide Life Threat Behav 2019; 49(3): 881-898.



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