Study shows summer jobs may help prevent suicidal tendencies in at-risk teens

March 25, 2009

A University of Iowa study found that when a friend of a friend attempts suicide, at-risk teens are more likely to seriously consider doing so. But at-risk teens are less likely to be suicidal if they hold summer jobs.

In fact, summer employment is more of a deterrent than holding a job during the school year, attending church, participating in sports or living in a two-parent home, according to the research by Rob Baller, associate professor of sociology in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who co-authored the study with Kelly Richardson, a data analyst at the Iowa City VA Medical Center.

"Summer employment is thought to be beneficial because it creates self-esteem while reducing isolation and substance abuse, and it does not conflict with school work in the way a job during the school year could," Baller said.

Risk factors for teen suicide include heavy alcohol consumption, physical fights, obesity, same-sex attraction and rape victimization. Among adolescents with more of these risk factors, working a paid summer job 20 or more hours a week creates immunity against the friend-to-friend diffusion of and behaviors. At-risk who are 16 or younger can work just 10 hours a week in the summer to reap the same benefit.

Unemployment rates for teens have continued to climb throughout the . The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the percentage of unemployed teens approaching 22 percent, far higher than the rates for adults.

"If unemployment continues to rise, teens may have a tough time finding jobs this summer," Richardson said. "Possible solutions could include working for pay within the family or for a friend of the family."

The researchers do offer one caveat: in order for summer employment to be beneficial, it must not expose troubled teens to additional problems. Working teens can be vulnerable to workplace harassment because of their inexperience and the ease with which they can be replaced, Baller said. E.J. Graff of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University found the problem of teen harassment in the workplace to be significant. Coverage of this issue can be viewed at www.pbs.org/now/shows/508/ .

"Working teens should be empowered to be intolerant of workplace harassment," Baller said. "Teens in the work force should be encouraged to speak openly with parents and supervisors if they experience it."

The study was an analysis of data from the 1994-1996 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which included information on friendship networks of 2,000 students at 15 junior and senior high schools. Effects of friends of friends attempting suicide were found controlling for suicide attempts by friends and family members, and the respondent's prior suicidal thoughts, among other controls.

More information: The study will be published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Source: University of Iowa (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.