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 Björkenstam.

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. Björkenstam.

Source: Karolinska Institutet