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Food insecurity, adolescent suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and country-level context: a multi-country cross-sectional analysis

Steare, Thomas, Lewis, Gemma, Evans-Lacko, Sara ORCID: 0000-0003-4691-2630, Pitman, Alexandra, Rose-Clarke, Kelly and Patalay, Praveetha (2024) Food insecurity, adolescent suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and country-level context: a multi-country cross-sectional analysis. Journal of Adolescent Health, 74 (3). 545 - 555. ISSN 1054-139X

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2023.10.018


Purpose Preventing adolescent suicide is a global priority. Inequalities in adolescent suicide and attempt rates are reported across countries, including a greater risk in adolescents experiencing food insecurity. Little is known about the extent to which country-level contextual factors moderate the magnitude of socio–economic inequalities in suicidal thoughts and behavior. We aimed to examine the cross-country variability and national moderators of the association between food insecurity and suicidal thoughts and behavior in school-attending adolescents. Methods We analysed data on 309,340 school-attending adolescents from 83 countries that participated in the Global School-based Student Health Survey between 2003 and 2018. We used Poisson regression to identify whether suicidal thoughts and behavior were more prevalent in adolescents experiencing food insecurity compared to food-secure adolescents. Meta-regression and mixed-effects regression were used to determine whether country-level indicators moderated the magnitude of inequality. Results Suicidal ideation, suicide planning, and suicide attempts were more prevalent in food-insecure adolescents compared to food-secure adolescents in 72%, 78%, and 90% of countries respectively; however, the magnitude of these associations varied between countries. We observed wider inequalities in countries with greater levels of national wealth and universal health coverage and lower prevalence of adolescent food insecurity. Economic inequality had no moderating role. Discussion Food insecurity could contribute to the development of adolescent suicidal thoughts and behavior, and this association is likely to be moderated by country-level context. Food insecurity may be a modifiable target to help prevent adolescent suicide, especially in countries where food insecurity is less common.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
Divisions: Personal Social Services Research Unit
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2023 10:42
Last Modified: 15 Jul 2024 03:03

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