Examining predictors of suicidal thoughts and planning among Canadian university students and varsity student-athletes


Suicide is the second most common cause of death among American university students, and the fourth most common cause of death among student-athletes (Rao et al., 2015). Student-athletes also have higher prevalence of binge-drinking and alcohol-related violence (Rao & Hong, 2016). concussions (Fralick et al., 2019) and depression (Sullivan et al., 2019) than their non-athlete counterparts, both of which are linked to suicide. Additionally, stress in non-athletes and difficulty in relationships for student-athletes have been shown to be predictors of suicide ideation. This study was analyzed using a cross-sectional design utilizing data from the Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey (CCWS) on post-secondary students from 2020 – 2021. Logistic regression models were used to analyze the predictive power of varsity athlete status, gender, sexual orientation, Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) score, Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (WEMWBS) score, and knowledge of on/off campus mental health resources on those suffering from suicidal thoughts (N = 39,693) and plans of suicide (N=4,921). For both models, varsity athlete designation was not significant, suggesting no difference in the suicidal thoughts and planning of varsity athletes compared to non-varsity athletes. Results indicated male (OR=1.26) and other (OR=1.489) genders, non-heterosexual individuals (OR=2.53), higher K10 score (OR=1.12), lower WEMWBS score (OR=1.03) and knowledge of on and off-campus mental health resources (OR=1.05, 1.07) were significant (p < 0.05) predictors of suicidal thoughts. Non-heterosexual individuals (OR=1.27), higher K10 score (OR=1.03) and knowledge of off-campus mental health resources (OR=1.13) were significant predictors of suicidal planning.