Maria Wong, PhD, professor of experimental psychology at Idaho State University, has been awarded a grant to explore the connections between sleep disturbances, substance use, and suicidal behaviors in young adults aged 18 to 25.

The pilot study, spearheaded by Wong, along with colleagues from 10 campuses in the Mountain West region who call themselves the Addiction Research Team, will lay the groundwork for a larger-scale study of approximately 2,000 subjects over a two-year period. Idaho State students will have the opportunity to participate in the research process. 

The grant was awarded from the Center for Translational Research and Innovation, supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

“We are thrilled to receive this funding approval from NIGMS, as it underscores the importance of addressing mental health challenges among emerging adults,” says Wong in a release. “This pilot study holds immense promise in shedding light on the intricate relationship between sleep patterns, substance use, and suicidal behaviors.”

The study comes as recent data highlights the prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among young adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide ranked as the third-leading cause of death among individuals aged 15-24 in 2020. Moreover, emerging adults between 18 to 25 exhibited the highest prevalence of serious suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Wong anticipates that the study will lead to applicable strategies for practitioners working on prevention and intervention programs.

“Given the prevalence of substance use and suicidal behaviors among young adults, our aim is to shed light on these critical issues,” Wong says in a release. “We believe our research will offer practical implications for supporting young adults grappling with substance use and suicidal thoughts.”

The project is supported by an award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health.

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