Get access

Ethnic Variations in Suicidal Ideation and Behaviors: A Prominent Subtype Marked by Nonpsychiatric Factors Among Asian Americans




Main objectives were to utilize multivariate rather than traditional regression approaches to capture the heterogeneity of subtypes of suicidal ideation and behaviors within ethnic minority groups. Mental illness is associated with suicidal ideation and behaviors in a vast majority of the general population, making psychopathology a common identifier of suicide risk. Yet recent studies suggest a need to better characterize suicidal ideation and behaviors among ethnic minorities and Asian Americans who do not exhibit the most commonly assessed risk factors.


The present study examined adults 18 years of age or older from the National Latino and Asian American Study and utilized latent class analysis to classify 191 Asian Americans with a history of serious suicidal ideation or attempts from a community sample into subtypes.


Two main subtypes resulted, including 48% in a “psychiatric” and 52% in a “nonpsychiatric” subtype of suicidal ideation and behaviors. The nonpsychiatric subtype was predominantly characterized by sociocultural factors (discrimination, family conflict, and low acculturation), medical problems, and limited functioning. The nonpsychiatric was less likely than the psychiatric subtype to seek help for mental health but was no different in access to a medical doctor, highlighting possible points of outreach.


Findings advance the culture and suicide literature by highlighting how current research and practice that characterize suicidal ideation and behaviors as a mental health phenomenon may not comprehensively identify suicidality among an ethnic minority group.