Receiving poor grades in school is associated with an increased risk of suicide at a young age, according to a new study from the medical university Karolinska Institutet and the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare.
Researchers found that teens with the lowest final average grades after year nine at age 16 (in a Swedish school) were three times more likely to commit suicide than students who graduated with the best or, at least, very high grades.
The findings reveal that suicide risk descended as grades rose.
Students with the best grades had the lowest risk of taking their own lives. Those whose final grades were above average but below top level still had a greater risk than those with the best grades, and those with average final grades in year nine had a higher risk still.
“The correlation is clear, despite having excluded young people who had been in hospital for mental health problems or drug-related diagnoses,” says Charlotte Björkenstam, doctoral student at Karolinska Institutet and managing director of the National Board of Health and Welfare’s cause-of-death register.
Researchers gathered data from the final grades of approximately 900,000 former students born between 1972 and 1981. This period was during a time when Swedish schools used a five-point numerical grade scale.
A followup study was conducted regarding suicide up to the ages of 25 to 34.
Researchers found that students who left year nine with an average grade under 2.25 ran about three times the risk of committing suicide compared with those who had an average final grade of over 4.25.
The very highest suicide risk was found in teens with incomplete grades.
The pattern was the same for both boys and girls, although the risks were consistently greater for boys.
For the study, researchers controlled for a number of other variables, including the following factors: parents’ educational level, whether the parents were receiving government help, if the parent was single, the age of the mother, the parents’ mental health and possible drug use, and whether the student had been adopted.
A particular correlation was that although parents’ educational level did not seem to affect suicide risk, children of low-educated parents were more likely to receive lower grades.
“What our study reveals most of all is how important it is to identify and assist pupils who are unable to meet the performance requirements,” says Ms Björkenstam.
The study is published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Source: Karolinska Institutet