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Youth Online Risk Factors Tied to Suicide-Related Behaviors

Risk for each factor varies, but risk for severe suicide/self-harm alert is 70 times higher for youth with five or more online risk factors

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FRIDAY, Sept. 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Discrete types of risk factors are identifiable from online data that are associated with subsequent youth suicide-related behavior, according to a study published online Sept. 20 in JAMA Network Open.

Steven A. Sumner, M.D., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues evaluated the association between online risk factors and youth suicide-related behavior using real-world online activity data. The analysis included 227 youths having a severe suicide or self-harm alert requiring notification of school administrators matched (1:5) to 1,135 controls based on location, length of follow-up, and general volume of online activity.

The researchers found that all eight online risk factors (cyberbullying, violence, drug-related, hate speech, profanity, sexual content, depression, and low-severity self-harm) differed between case and control populations and were significantly associated with subsequent severe suicide/self-harm alerts. There was a range in these associations from an adjusted odds ratio of 1.17 for drug-related content to an adjusted odds ratio of 1.82 for depression-related content. There was an exponentially larger risk for severe suicide/self-harm alerts based on number of online risk factors, with youth with five or more of the eight risk factors having more than 70-fold increased odds of subsequently having a severe suicide/self-harm alert (adjusted odds ratio, 78.64).

"Our findings suggest novel avenues for more timely and efficient assistance and youth suicide prevention efforts," the authors write.

Several authors are employed by Bark, the online safety tool used in the study.

Abstract/Full Text

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