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The association between school class composition and suicidal ideation in late adolescence: Findings from the Young-HUNT 3 study

Joakim D Dalen

Author Affiliations

NTNU Social Research, Trondheim, Norway

Department of Sociology and Political science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 2012, 6:37  doi:10.1186/1753-2000-6-37

Published: 27 November 2012



Few studies have explored the association between social context and suicidal ideation using multilevel models. This study examines how suicidal ideation in adolescence is related to school class composition.


Data were obtained from the Young-HUNT 3 study (2006–2008), a population study of adolescents attending secondary school in the Norwegian county of Nord-Trøndelag. The final sample included 2923 adolescents distributed among 379 school classes in 13 schools. Multilevel logistic regression was used to estimate the contribution of various factors at the individual and school class levels.


The results indicate that 5.3 percent of the variation in suicidal ideation can be attributed to differences between school classes. However, a substantial part of this variation can be explained by an unequal distribution of students at risk as a result of individual factors. After controlling for individual-level variables, the results show a higher probability of suicidal ideation in school classes having higher proportions of girls as well as in those following a vocational education programme.


Targeting classes that either follow a vocational education programme or have a high proportion of girls can be an effective approach to intervention because such classes may include a greater number of students at risk for having suicidal thoughts compared to classes with a high proportion of boys or classes following a general education programme.

Suicidal ideation; Adolescence; School class; HUNT study; Multilevel analyses