Suicidal ideation among Nepali widows: an exploratory study of risk factors and comorbid psychosocial problems

Garrison-Desany, H. M., M. E. Lasater, N. P. Luitel, D. Rimal, D. Pun, S. Shrestha, W. Tol, and P. J. Surkan

Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology

Published on: 13 August 2020

Purpose: Suicide is a leading cause of death among Nepali women of reproductive age. Suicidal ideation has known associations with stressful life events, which Nepali widows disproportionately experience. We aimed to identify risk and protective factors that could lead to effective interventions for this population.

Methods: To study suicidal ideation in Nepali widows, we collected data from 204 women in urban, semi-urban, and rural areas whose husbands died at least one year prior. The questionnaire included sociodemographic information, the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25, PTSD Checklist-Civilian Version, Somatic Symptom Scale-8, and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. Overall severity of prolonged grief was assessed by a counselor after completing a structured clinical interview. Using multivariate regression models, we assessed associations of sociodemographic and psychosocial indicators with past-year suicidal ideation. Latent profile analysis was also performed to estimate profiles of comorbidities.

Results: Past-year suicidality was high, with 16.2% (N = 33). Each year increase since husband’s death was protective and reduced odds of ideation 8% (95% CI 0.85-0.98) and being educated and of older age also reduced the odds of ideation by 0.21 (95% CI 0.06-0.70), and 0.09 (95% CI 0.01-0.64), respectively. Depression (OR = 6.37, 95% CI 2.78-14.59), PTSD (OR = 3.84, 95% CI 2.15-6.86), prolonged grief (OR = 6.04, 95% CI 3.04-12.00) and anxiety (OR = 6.52, 95% CI 2.96-14.38) were highly associated with suicidality, and mapped onto the three profiles of increasing mental distress severity.

Conclusion: Suicide remains a major issue among Nepali widows, showing high comorbidity with other mental disorders. Screening for depression, anxiety, and prolonged grief, may aid in identifying widows at increased risk of suicidal ideation.

Keywords: Depression; Suicide; Transcultural psychiatry; Women’s health

doi: 10.1007/s00127-020-01932-7

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