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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State: Alcohol Linked to Suicidal Thoughts Among Ugandan Slum Youth

Nearly one-fourth of young people living in the slums of Kampala, Uganda have contemplated suicide, which is higher than previous studies have shown for Ugandan youth overall, according to a recent study by researchers at the Georgia State University School of Public Health.

The study also found that alcohol misuse was associated with a higher prevalence of suicidal thoughts among youth. Other factors linked to suicidal ideation were being female, losing one or both parents, and experiencing sexual or physical abuse.

“Suicide is a major public health problem worldwide and the third leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 19,” the researchers said. “In Uganda, suicidal ideation and behaviors have been identified as an emerging public health problem among adolescents, particularly among youth in dire environmental conditions such as youth living on the streets and slums of Kampala, Uganda.”

To examine the factors linked to suicidal ideation among youth living in Kampala’s slums, a team of researchers analyzed data from a 2014 survey of 1,130 adolescents ages 12 to 18 who visited drop-in centers run by the Uganda Youth Development Link, a national nongovernmental organization providing social services and support for disadvantaged youth.

The results are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in the article “Suicidal Ideation among Youth Living in the Slums of Kampala, Uganda.” The study’s lead author is Ms. Rachel Culbreth, a doctoral student in Georgia State’s School of Public Health.

The study highlighted the connection between young people’s problematic drinking habits and suicidal thoughts as an area for future public health work. Youth who reported misusing alcohol were nearly twice as likely to report suicidal thoughts, the researchers said.

“Problem drinking is likely a coping strategy for these youth with high levels of adverse childhood experiences and current health issues, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted illnesses,” they said. “Problem drinking is a modifiable risk factors for suicidal ideation that could potentially be replaced with other coping strategies and psychosocial support that may address the underlying reasons for alcohol misuse.”

The study’s authors also included Dr. Monica Swahn, distinguished professor of epidemiology at biostatistics at Georgia State; Ms. Lynette Ametewee, current PhD student in Georgia State’s School of Public Health; Dr. David Ndetei with the University of Nairobi and the Africa Mental Health Foundation; and Mr. Rogers Kasirye, with the Uganda Youth Development Link.