Teenagers who have significant problems reading appear to be much more likely than their peers to contemplate or attempt suicide, researchers reported yesterday.

In a three-year study of 188 high school pupils, researchers found that those with poor reading abilities were nearly four times more likely than average readers to think about or attempt suicide.

Twenty-five per cent of teens with reading disabilities said they thought about killing themselves or made a suicide attempt, while these thoughts and behaviours were reported by 9 per cent of students with average reading skills, the study authors report in the Journal of Learning Disabilities.

"If a child is having trouble reading, then drops out of school, the risk of suicidal behaviour in thought or in deed goes up all the more," said senior study author Dr Frank B. Wood of North Carolina.