Discrimination and suicidality among racial and ethnic minorities in the United States

Hans Oh, Andrew Stickley, Ai Koyanagi, Rebecca Yau, Jordan E. DeVylder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Over the past decade, suicide rates have increased among certain racial/ethnic minority groups in the United States. To better understand suicide vulnerability among people of color, studies have examined the relations between social risk factors—such as discrimination—and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. However, the literature has been inconsistent, calling for more population studies. Methods: This study analyzed data from two surveys: (1) The National Survey of American Life; and (2) The National Latino and Asian American Survey, which taken together are representative of Black, Latino, and Asians in the United States. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to examine the association between levels of discrimination on the Everyday Discrimination Scale and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Additional models tested for effect modification by race and by psychiatric diagnosis. Results: We found that individuals who reported the highest levels of discrimination had greater odds of reporting lifetime suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts, when compared with people who did not report discrimination, after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics. Notably, discrimination increased odds of reporting an unplanned suicide attempt and a suicide attempt without the intent to die. Adjusting for psychiatric diagnoses attenuated these effects. We found no evidence of effect modification by race or by psychiatric diagnosis. Limitations: Data were cross-sectional, which did not allow for causal inferences. Conclusions: Future translational research can explore how screening for discrimination may help identify individuals and groups of racial/ethnic minorities at risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-523
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019


  • Asian
  • Black
  • Discrimination
  • Hispanic
  • Latino
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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