Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Monica H. Swahn

Second Advisor

Frances A. McCarty


OBJECTIVES: To compare the prevalence and correlates of suicidal ideation among youth in sub-Saharan Africa and to evaluate differences in such prevalence and correlates of suicidal ideation to identify how risk behaviors vary by gender across country settings.

METHODS: Analyses are based on the Global School-Based Student Health Survey (GSHS) conducted in Botswana (N=2197; 2005), Kenya (N=3691; 2003), Tanzania (N=2176; 2006), Uganda (N=3215; 2003) and Zambia (N=2257; 2004) of students primarily 13 to 16 years of age. Logistic regression analyses were computed to determine the associations between correlates (i.e., hunger, current alcohol use, problem drinking, bullying victimization, sadness, loneliness, worrying, having no close friends, missed school, illicit drug use, physical fights, physical attacks and early sexual initiation) and suicidal ideation for all students and between boys and girls.

RESULTS: The results showed variability in the prevalence of suicidal ideation across these countries. Zambia had the highest prevalence of suicidal ideation (31.9%) among all students, followed by Kenya (27.9%), Botswana (23.1%), Uganda (19.6%) and Tanzania (11.2%). Sadness was the most commonly associated correlate of suicidal ideation among students. Sadness was significantly associated with suicidal ideation in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Sadness remained significantly associated among boys and girls across the same countries.

CONCLUSION: The associations between the risk factors examined and suicidal ideation have helped to increase the understanding of an ignored, but critical issue in Sub-Saharan Africa. There is an urgent need for additional research in this area in addition to greater suicide prevention efforts in sub-Saharan African countries.

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Public Health Commons