ADHD News & Research

Study: Suicide Risk Relatively Higher Among Undergraduates with ADHD

Students with ADHD experience suicidal ideation and suicide plans at double and triple the rates of undergraduates without ADHD, respectively, according to a new study.

February 25, 2022

Suicidal behaviors and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) are more prevalent among first-year college students with ADHD compared to undergraduates without ADHD, according to a new study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.1

The study found that undergraduate students with ADHD had more than double the rate of suicidal ideation (44.8% vs. 21.7%), three times the rate of suicide plans (26.6% vs. 9.8%), and more than double the rate of suicide attempts (13.4% vs. 5.5%) and NSSI (23.4% vs. 9.6%) compared to students without ADHD. 1

Researchers evaluated the frequency of suicidal ideation (SI), plans and attempts, and NSSI among 1,829 first-year students (1,317 females and 512 males) from Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) in the Republic of Ireland and four Ulster University (UU) campuses in Northern Ireland. Students completed an online survey in September 2019, which asked questions about several mental health disorders, suicide behaviors, and ADHD, per DSM-IV criteria.

ADHD Prevalent in College Students

Of students surveyed, 27.2% presented with ADHD, which is considerably more than previously reported (2%–8%).2 However, research examining the international prevalence of ADHD among college students and the association between suicidal behaviors among college students with ADHD remains scarce. 3

“ADHD remained a significant predictor of suicidal behaviors even after adjusting for co-morbid disorders and alcohol and substance use, albeit to a lesser extent,” the study authors wrote. “This supports the hypothesis that the symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsiveness and inattention may act as independent risk factors for SI and attempts.”

Findings from the study help may inform the development of more targeted mental health and suicide prevention strategies and interventions aimed specifically at college students with ADHD.

View Article Sources

1Brown N, McLafferty M, O’Neill SM, et al. (February 2022). The Mediating Roles of Mental Health and Substance Use on Suicidal Behavior Among Undergraduate Students With ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders  10.1177/10870547221075844

2DuPaul, G. J., Weyandt, L. L., O’Dell, S. M., Varejao, M. (2009). College students with ADHD: Current status and future directions. Journal of Attention Disorders,  13(3), 234–250.  10.1177/1087054709340650

3Barbaresi, W. J., Colligan, R. C., Weaver, A. L., Voigt, R. G., Killian, J. M., Katusic, S. K. (2013). Mortality, ADHD, and psychosocial adversity in adults with childhood ADHD: A prospective study. Pediatrics,  131(4), 637–644. 10.1542/peds.2012-2354

3DuPaul, Impey, M., Heun, R. (2012). Completed suicide, ideation and attempt in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. JActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica,  13(3), 234–250.  10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01798.x