Social connectedness, stressful life events, and self-injurious thoughts and behaviors among young adults
Abstract Objectives Preventing self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITBs) is particularly challenging on commuter campuses, given lower social cohesion and higher levels of stress than among traditional college populations. The present study examined the relationship between stressful life events (SLEs) and risk for different forms of SITBs, along with the potential buffering role of social connectedness, in a diverse sample of young adults from a commuter college. Methods Participants were 1712 (81% female; 61% racial/ethnic minority; 20% sexual minority) undergraduate and graduate students from a public commuter college in New York City. Participants completed an anonymous survey that inquired about lifetime and recent (past 12months) history of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), along with social connectedness and lifetime history of SLEs. Results Lower levels of social connectedness and exposure to a higher number of SLEs were associated with engaging in SITBs in the past year, particularly both suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-injury. However, social connectedness did not buffer against the impact of SLEs on SITBs. Limitations Data are cross-sectional, limiting conclusions about directionality, and females were overrepresented. Conclusions Identifying ways to increase social connectedness on diverse commuter campuses may help decrease risk of SITBs. However, it may not buffer against the impact of SLEs on risk of SITBs. Future studies should examine contextual variables (e.g., type and timing of social support) that may play a role in protecting against SITBs, particularly for those with a history of adversity.
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