Methods: This study uses data from the Woodlawn Study, a longitudinal study that followed an African American cohort in Chicago from 1st grade into midlife (age 42, n=1,242), with data collected at ages 6 (childhood), 16 (adolescence), 32 (young adulthood), and 42 (midlife). We examine the role of multiple social integration factors measured in adulthood as predictors of suicidal ideation at midlife: children, marriage, employment, community engagement, perceived racism, and social support. We also examine the role of social support during adolescence and family-level community engagement during childhood as predictors of suicidal ideation at midlife.
Findings: Adjusting for sociodemographic confounders, no association was found between child or adolescent factors and midlife suicidal ideation. Those who were employed in young adulthood (OR=0.54, p=.031) and those who were employed in midlife (OR=0.23, p<0.001) were less likely to report suicidal ideation. Other social roles did not predict ideation. Those who perceived more racism in midlife were less likely to experience suicidal ideation in midlife (OR=1.14, p=0.032). Further, greater social support in midlife predicted lower odds of suicidal ideation (OR=0.97, p=.015). Follow up analyses will explore additional early life factors and gender interactions, as males and females may have different pathways toward suicide.
Conclusions: Findings show that certain components of social integration throughout the life course are negatively associated with suicidal ideation among middle-aged African Americans. Evidence demonstrates that components of social integration serve as protective factors toward suicidal ideation in this vulnerable population. Future research should continue to examine the relationship between social integration and suicide among African Americans to inform the development of suicide prevention interventions. Learning about the pathways to suicide for these populations is high priority, warranting further research.