Risk factors for suicidal thoughts in informal caregivers: Results from the population-based Netherlands mental health survey and incidence Study-2 (NEMESIS-2)

Karlijn J. Joling, Margreet Ten Have, Ron De Graaf, Siobhan T. O'Dwyer

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Background: Previous research suggests that family caregivers contemplate suicide at a higher rate than the general population. Much of this research has been disease specific and in relatively small samples. This study aimed to compare suicidal thoughts between non-caregivers and informal caregivers of people with a variety of conditions, in a large representative sample, and to identify significant risk factors. Methods: The general population study NEMESIS-2 (N at baseline = 6646) included 1582 adult caregivers at the second wave (2010-2012) who also participated at the third wave (2013-2015). Suicidal thoughts were assessed over 4 years, with the Suicidality Module of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview 3.0. The presence of suicidal thoughts was estimated and risk factors for suicidal thoughts were assessed with logistic regression analyses adjusted for age and gender. Results: Thirty-six informal caregivers (2.9%) reported suicidal thoughts during the 4 year study period. The difference between caregivers and non-caregivers (3.0%) was not significant. Among caregivers, significant risk factors for suicidal thoughts included being unemployed, living without a partner, having lower levels of social support, having a chronic physical disorder, a mood disorder or an anxiety disorder, and having impaired social, physical and emotional functioning. These risk factors were also found in non-caregivers. No caregiving-related characteristics were associated with suicidal thoughts. Conclusion: There was no elevated rate of suicidal thoughts in caregivers and risk factors for suicidal thoughts in caregivers were consistent with risk factors in non-caregivers. No association between caregiving characteristics and suicidal thoughts was found. Caregivers with limited resources and in poorer health might still benefit from prevention and intervention efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number320
JournalBMC psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2019


  • Informal caregivers
  • Population study
  • Risk factors
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicidal thoughts

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