Household composition and suicidal behaviour in the adult population of Belgium



We aimed to estimate the prevalence of suicidal behaviours, i.e. ideation and attempt, in the adult population of Belgium, and to explore their association with household composition.


Data of 4,459 adults (25–64 years) from the 2004 Belgian Health Interview Survey were used for analyses. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regressions were used to calculate the odds of engaging in suicidal behaviours according to household type, further controlling for age, sex, income, employment status and social support.


Lifetime prevalence of ideation and attempts was 14 and 4.7 %, respectively. Current prevalence of ideation was 4.0 % and past year prevalence of attempts was 0.5 %. Compared to other household compositions, living alone (A) and as lone parent (P) increased the odds of lifetime and current suicidal thoughts (ORA 2.3, 95 % CI 1.7–2.9 and ORP 3.8, 95 % CI 1.9–7.7) and lifetime attempts (ORA 2.3, 95 % CI 1.4–3.6 and ORP 4.5, 95 % CI 2.4–8.5). When controlling for confounders, single person and single parent households still presented increased adjusted-odds of lifetime and current suicidal thoughts (a-ORA 1.8, 95 % CI 1.1–2.9 and a-ORP 2.3, 95 % CI 1.0–5.5). The likelihood of ever attempted suicide was also higher among single parent households (a-ORP 4.5, 95 % CI 2.4–8.5) after adjustment, but not among those living alone (a-ORA 1.4, 95 % CI 0.8–2.8).


Living alone or as lone parent place adults at higher risk for suicide behaviour, and this is only partly explained by lower socio-economic status or poor perceived support.

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The Health Interview Survey (HIS) is funded by the Belgian authorities responsible for public health at the federal, regional and community levels. The authors are grateful to the Belgian HIS team at the Scientific Institute of Public Health (Jean Tafforeau, coordinator; Stefaan Demarest; Sabine Drieskens; Edith Hesse; Johan Van der Heyden; Lydia Gisle) for the conception, organization, execution and data processing of the 2004 edition of the survey. They are thankful to Jean Tafforeau for reviewing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lydia Gisle.

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Gisle, L., Van Oyen, H. Household composition and suicidal behaviour in the adult population of Belgium. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 48, 1115–1124 (2013).

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  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempt
  • Single parent
  • Household
  • Risk factors