Multiple risk behaviors and suicidal ideation and behavior among Israeli and Palestinian adolescents

Yossi Harel-Fisch, Ziad Abdeen, Sophie D. Walsh, Qasrowi Radwan, Haya Fogel-Grinvald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Based conceptually on Problem Behavior Theory, Normalization Theory and theories of adolescent ethnic identity formation this study explores relationships between individual and cumulative multiple risk behaviors and suicidal ideation and behavior among mid-adolescents in three different populations in the Middle East. Data from the 2004 Health Behavior in School-Aged Children in the Middle-East (HBSC-ME) study included 8345 10th-grade pupils in three populations: Jewish Israelis (1770), Arab Israelis (2185), and Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank (4390). We considered risk behaviors and factors including tobacco use, bullying, medically-attended injuries, excessive time with friends, parental disconnectedness, negative school experience, truancy and poor academic performance. Substantial population differences for suicidal tendency and risk behaviors were observed, with notably high levels of suicidal ideation and behavior among Arab-Israeli youth and higher levels of risk behaviors among the Jewish and Arab-Israeli youth. For all populations suicidal tendency was at least 4 times higher among adolescents reporting 4+ risk behaviors, suggesting that similar psychosocial determinants affect patterns of risk behaviors and suicidal tendency. Results highlight the importance of understanding cultural contexts of risk behaviors and suicidal ideation and behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-108
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the USA-Agency for International Development (US-AID), Middle East Research Cooperation (MERC) program, Grant Agreement # TA-MOU-00-M20-051 and by a grant agreement from an anonymous foundation.


  • Adolescence
  • Israel
  • Palestinian territories
  • Risk behaviors
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Suicide ideation


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