Suicidal behavior and ethnicity of young females in Rotterdam, the Netherlands: rates and risk factors

D.D. van Bergen, M. Eikelenboom, J.H. Smit, P. van de Looij-Jansen, S. Saharso

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Objective. Although Western Europe is becoming increasingly multicultural, ethnic minorities are scarcely included in studies of suicidology. We investigated the prevalence of non-fatal suicidal behavior and examined risk factors in non-western female immigrant adolescents compared to majority female adolescents in the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Design. We conducted logistic regression on a dataset that consisted of self-reported health and well-being questionnaires filled out by 4527 adolescents of Dutch, South Asian-Surinamese, Moroccan, and Turkish origin. We examined whether young females of specific ethnic groups had elevated risk for attempted suicide. Well-known risk factors in suicidology of social economic class, level of education, life events, abuse, and family context were investigated to verify whether these factors are beneficial to explaining ethnic differences in suicidal behavior. Results. We found that rates of attempted suicide among Turkish and South Asian-Surinamese young women were higher than of Dutch females, while Moroccan females had lower rates than Dutch female adolescents. Physical and sexual abuse, and an impaired family environment, as well as parental psychopathology or parental substance abuse contributed to non-fatal suicidal behavior of females across ethnicities. However, these risk factors, as well as low social economic class and of level of education, did not fully explain the vulnerability of Turkish and South Asian-Surinamese females. Conclusion. Our findings underscored the need for developing suicide prevention for specific minority females in multicultural cities in Western Europe. Screening programs, which aim at preventing suicide attempts by young immigrant women should include risk factors in the family environment and relationship with the parents as well as physical and sexual abuse. However, the study also showed that the disproportionate risk of Turkish and South Asian-Surinamese females could not be understood by risk factors alone and transpired that the origins of ethnic disparities in suicidal behavior deserve further examination. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-530
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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