Anxiety, panic and suicide risk in college students

Jacqueline Kailes Tropp, Fordham University


Suicide rates for the 15-24 group have risen dramatically in recent years. Traditionally, studies on suicidal behavior have focused on depression, substance abuse and social factors. Recent studies report strong associations between panic and suicidality in adults. The present study sought to extend these findings by looking at panic, anxiety and suicide risk in college students. To explore the unique relationship among these variables, other factors already identified as associated with suicidality were controlled. Subjects consisted of 153 undergraduate students. All measures were self-report questionnaires. In addition to suicide risk, hopelessness, alcohol and drug use, perceived social support, and continued parental attachment were assessed. A social desirability scale was used to identify subjects who may have distorted responses due to strong needs for social approval. Using correlational and multiple regression analyses, both anxiety and panic were found to be significantly correlated with, and predictive of, suicide risk. Anxiety remained significantly correlated with suicide risk when hopelessness was controlled, but the relationship between panic and suicide risk was nonsignificant when hopelessness was controlled. Almost 25% of subjects reported panic attacks. This relatively high occurrence, as compared with previous reports, may relate to the sample used and/or to the use of questionnaires which asked subjects to consider a wide range of emotional experiences. Findings that hopelessness was correlated with both suicide risk and a lack of social support are consistent with previous reports. The lack of relationship found between substance abuse and suicidality was felt to relate to the extremely low incidence of substance abuse and the restricted range of scores on these measures. Generalization of the present findings is limited due to the homogeneous population used, the correlational nature of the data, and the potential bias inherent in the use of questionnaires. The present findings indicate the need to recognize anxiety and panic as significant, independent risk factors when assessing suicidal behavior. Community education programs to inform the public about these high-risk symptoms are needed, as is future research about panic and suicidal behavior.

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Recommended Citation

Tropp, Jacqueline Kailes, "Anxiety, panic and suicide risk in college students" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9223826.