Increase in Suicidal Thinking During COVID-19

Rebecca G. Fortgang, Shirley B. Wang, Alexander J. Millner, Azure Reid-Russell, Anna L. Beukenhorst, Evan M. Kleiman, Kate H. Bentley, Kelly L. Zuromski, Maha Al-Suwaidi, Suzanne A. Bird, Ralph Buonopane, Dylan DeMarco, Adam Haim, Victoria W. Joyce, Erik K. Kastman, Erin Kilbury, Hye-In S. Lee, Patrick Mair, Carol C. Nash, Jukka-Pekka OnnelaJordan W. Smoller, Matthew K. Nock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is concern that the COVID-19 pandemic may cause increased risk of suicide. In the current study, we tested whether suicidal thinking has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and whether such thinking was predicted by increased feelings of social isolation. In a sample of 55 individuals recently hospitalized for suicidal thinking or behaviors and participating in a 6-month intensive longitudinal smartphone monitoring study, we examined suicidal thinking and isolation before and after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a national emergency in the United States. We found that suicidal thinking increased significantly among adults (odds ratio [OR] = 4.01, 95% confidence interval [CI] = [3.28, 4.90], p <.001) but not adolescents (OR = 0.84, 95% CI = [0.69, 1.01], p =.07) during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased feelings of isolation predicted suicidal thinking during the pandemic phase. Given the importance of social distancing policies, these findings support the need for digital outreach and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-488
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Issue number3
Early online date15 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021


  • interpersonal interaction
  • longitudinal methods
  • suicide prevention


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