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Poor grades pose higher suicide risk: study

Vivian Tse · 26 Oct 2010, 11:37

Published: 26 Oct 2010 11:37 GMT+02:00

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"The correlation is clear, even after excluding young people who had been in the hospital for mental health problems or drug-related diagnoses," Charlotte Björkenstam, doctoral student at Karolinska Institute and managing director of the cause-of-death register at Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) said in a statement.

The study was published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health last Tuesday.

The researchers examined the grades of almost 900,000 Swedish high school graduates in their last year born between 1972 and 1981, when Swedish schools used a five-point numerical grade scale, with 5 the highest grade.

A follow-up was then conducted regarding suicide up to the ages of 25 to 34.

The results revealed that those with the highest grades had the lowest risk of suicide. Students whose grades in the last year were above average, but below the highest level had a higher risk than those with top grades, while those who had graduated with average grades had an even higher risk.

However, the highest suicide risk was among those who had received "incomplete" grades. Those who completed the last year of high school with an average grade under 2.25 demonstrated a risk of taking their own lives that was about three times higher than those who had earned an average grade of over 4.25.

The same pattern was observed among boys and girls, although the risks were consistently higher for boys.

"The study shows that the grades are an indicator of something else, that something else is not going well in the student's life. It's not the grades itself. That's our interpretation," Björkenstam told The Local.

Schools can definitely do more for students who are having a hard time regardless of how they are graded, she added, pointing out that the study was conducted on students who graduated in the 1990s.

Björkestam believes that even though Swedish schools now use a different grading system, the findings would be similar.

The researchers of the study accounted for a number of variables, including the educational levels of the parents, whether the parents were on benefits or raising the children alone, the age of the mothers, the mental health of the parents and possible drug use and whether the child was adopted.

Story continues below…

"One limitation of the study was that we could not control for mental illness or drug abuse," Björkenstam told The Local.

One correlation they found was that while the educational level of the parents did not seem to impact 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," Björkenstam said in a statement.

Vivian Tse (vivian.tse@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:37 October 26, 2010 by maakm
off course it is a common sense. what a silly research.
14:13 October 26, 2010 by swedennews
Very sad :(

People can't be good at every subject. It's a shame society is based on grades and numbers, rather than useful skills like plumbing, mechanics and electritions.
17:33 October 26, 2010 by mjennin2
This is a stupid study. Anyone suffering from depression, drug addiction, or any other factor that could conceviably lead someone to kill themselves, will obviously be reflected in poor performance in ANYTHING they do - be it school, work, relationships, etc.

What is NOT captured in this study however, and what would be more intersting to learn, is the correlation of suicide with savants. That is to say, people who are geniuses and excel at one facet of life - school, the arts, music, etc - and yet commit suicide anyway, because despite their extreme talents in one area of life, they are still utterly miserable. Take for instance Vincent van Gough, etc; there are countless occurances of people who excel at what they do and yet dive into their dirt nap anyway.
19:46 October 26, 2010 by Farax
Most obvious study ever conducted. What a waste of time.
20:28 October 26, 2010 by SilverBattleAxe
@Farax: Why is this a stupid study? Can you tell someone straight away that those people that get low grades in High School are the ones that are the most likely to eventually commit suicide? The correlation and the STRENGTH of correlation between grades achieved in High School and the probability that someone will eventually commit suicide is not known until a study examining the data has been conducted as has been done so here. The results of this study can be put to good use.

According to the results of this study, people that get low grades in High School should be counseled for depression or other problems in their life since these are the people that are most at risk for eventually committing suicide. Hopefully the results of this study will be put to use and help cut down the suicide rate and help identify those people that are most vulnerable and in need of help.
02:17 October 27, 2010 by Sam1
its because in this Era you are not worth how clever and smart you might be..You might be a dumb ass with no commen sense but still have a certificate that certifies you to be some one who takes decision in other peoples lives..

Just because you happened to pass and mug up some subject...Sweden treats people like numbers and papers sometimes, you are worth your certificates or digree...What is so funny many scientists and inventors didnt have a digree but earned it after they became famous...

Not now though bring me a dumb ass to take care of a full hospital as long as you are certified ...10 years back working for UN, some lawyers there and ofcourse handlegare used to ask me what to do in situations in interviews although i was interpreting to pay for my education..But they had the certificate but now skills...or wits.
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