Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate the association between subjective social status and suicide ideation in a sample of young Kenyan men (age 18-34 years). Situating insights from the interpersonal theory of suicide within social determinants of health framework, we consider whether lower subjective social status predicts lower collective self-esteem (CSE), hopelessness, less meaning in life and more loneliness, and whether these characteristics mediate associations between subjective social status and suicide ideation.
Method: A community-based, semi-rural sample (n = 532) of young men, aged 18-34 years, was collected using a standardized questionnaire. The survey questionnaire included the following validated scale items: the short form of the Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale for Adults, CSE, Herth Hope Index, the Meaning in Life Questionnaire, and the Modified Scale for Suicide Ideation. Regression and mediation analyses were used to test hypotheses.
Results: Nearly 12% of respondents reported suicide ideation. Suicide ideation was significantly more common among survey respondents who reported lower subjective social standing. In the first of two mediation models, we found that lower CSE and more loneliness mediate the association between lower subjective social status and suicide ideation. In the second model, we found that respondents with lower CSE and more loneliness expressed lower hope and meaning in life, which also mediated pathways to suicide ideation.
Conclusions: Findings show a novel synthesis of social determinants literature with the interpersonal theory of suicide. Suicide ideation, along with other mental and social outcomes, may figure more prominently than previously appreciated in the benefits of socio-economic equality. Those who do not participate equally in socio-economic development may be at greater risk of engaging in suicide ideation and behaviors. Suicide prevention research and programmatic responses should adopt a health equity perspective to ensure that prevention is targeted where people are more likely to engage in suicide ideation.
Keywords: Kenya; Self-esteem; Subjective social standing; Suicide ideation; Young men.