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Teenagers who have sex and use drugs have an increased suicide risk.

Researchers analyzed data from a survey of nearly 19,000 American teens in grades 7 to 12 conducted in the mid-1990s. They found that levels of depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts were highest among teens who engaged in high-risk behaviors involving sex and drugs. 

Teens who abstained from sex and drugs had the lowest levels.

Teens who dabbled in sex, drugs, alcohol, and tobacco were in the middle.  “These results suggest that health-care professionals who identify adolescent patients reporting sexual intercourse or drug use should strongly consider screening for depression and risk of suicide,” study author Denise D. Hallfors, a senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Chapel Hill, N.C., said in a prepared statement.

The study found that girls were less likely than boys to pursue high-risk behaviors. But girls who did pursue high-risk behaviors were more vulnerable than boys to depression, suicidal thoughts, and attempted suicide.  Higher socioeconomic status reduced the risk of depression by about half, but it increased the risk of suicidal thoughts.

“It is particularly important not to miss opportunities to diagnose depression because effective treatments are available, or to overlook suicide risk, because suicide can be prevented,” Hallfors said. [current American Journal of Preventive Medicine, SEP 29, 2004; HealthDayNews, 09/16/04]