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Health & Science

Ethnic Differences Matter When Talking About Suicide Prevention, UH Research Suggests

Suicide risk factors vary by ethnic group in the United States.

A new study by researchers at the University of Houston looks at how risks factors for suicide attempts differ by ethnic group.


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An analysis by researchers at the University of Houston of more than 336,000 adults found that predictors for suicide attempts differ by ethnic group.

For example, depression is a common risk factor for several ethnic groups, but not African Americans and multi-racial people. And, alcohol abuse is a factor for suicide attempts among American Indians, blacks and whites, but not other ethnicities.

Psychology professor Rheeda Walker, the lead researcher for the study, said this research is important for suicide prevention.

"When we're trying to assess or predict who might be at risk, if we're only looking at certain risk factors, we're going to miss the risk for people who identify with certain ethnic groups," she said.

Walker said some of the reasons for the differences may be cultural. For example, the fact that African Americans are more likely to be religious may help that group deal better with depression.

"We saw alcohol abuse and dependence as predictive for persons who identify as American Indians, but we didn't see that for Asian Americans," she said. "So to start to see, okay, this is predictive here, but not with this group."

Walker's research was published in the August issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

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