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Grades as Indicator of Suicide Risk

Grades as Indicator of Suicide Risk A new study suggests students who leave school after the 9th grade with poor academic performance are at increased risk of suicide.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet medical university and the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare determined 16-year-olds who drop out from school with the lowest grades have three times the risk of committing suicide compared with those who graduate with top or very high grades.

“The correlation is clear, despite having excluded young people who had been in hospital for mental health problems or drug-related diagnoses,” says Charlotte Bj√∂rkenstam.

The researchers examined the leaving grades of almost 900,000 former graduates born between 1972 and 1981, when Swedish schools applied a five-point numerical grade scale. A followup was then made with respect to suicide up to the ages of 25 to 34.

Their results show that those with the very highest grades had the lowest risk of committing suicide. People whose leaving grades were above average but below top level evinced a higher risk than those with top grades, and those who had left year nine with average grades had a higher risk still.

However, the very highest suicide risk was shown by young people with incomplete grades. Those who left year nine with an average grade under 2.25 ran approximately three times the risk of taking their own lives compared with those scoring an average leaving grade of over 4.25.

The same pattern was observed among boys and girls, although the risks were consistently higher for boys.

In conducting the study, which is published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers controlled for a number of other variables, such as the educational level of the parents, whether the parents were on benefit or single, the age of the mothers, the mental health of the parents and possible drug use, and whether the child had been adopted.

One correlation they found was that while the educational level of the parents did not seem to impact on suicide risk, it was more common for children of low-educated parents 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. Bj√∂rkenstam.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

Grades as Indicator of Suicide Risk

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Grades as Indicator of Suicide Risk. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 28 Oct 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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