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Poor Reading Skills Raise Teen Suicide Risk

Literacy trouble also boosted school dropout rate, study found

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 1, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Teens who can't read well may also be at high risk for suicide, a new study warns.

They're also more likely than other kids their age to drop out of school, say researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"In our study, poor readers were three times more likely than typical readers to consider or attempt suicide, and six times more likely to drop out of school," study author Stephanie Sergent Daniel said in a prepared statement. "Educators and parents should be aware of the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior among adolescents with reading problems."

She and her colleagues studied 188 students who were 15 years old when they were recruited from six public high schools. The students were followed for about 3.3 years.

The students' reading skills were assessed at the start of the study, and those in the lowest 18 percent were classified as poor readers.

Follow-up interviews indicated that the poor readers were more likely to experience suicidal thoughts or attempts and were more likely to drop out of school. The study also concluded that suicidal thoughts/attempts and dropping out of school were strongly associated with each other.

While psychiatric disorders were related to thoughts of suicide and school drop-out, poor reading was still a risk factor on its own, the study said.

"Significant reading difficulties were independent of, or over and beyond, the risk from psychiatric conditions," senior researcher Frank Wood said in a prepared statement. "Regardless of whether they have independent psychiatric disorders, these students begin to get depressed or suicidal in higher numbers than typical readers."

The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of Learning Disabilities.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about teens and suicide.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, Nov. 1, 2006
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