Suicide in a rural area of coastal Kenya

BMC Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 29;18(1):267. doi: 10.1186/s12888-018-1855-z.


Background: Suicide accounts for approximately 1.4% of deaths globally and is the 15th leading cause of death overall. There are no reliable data on the epidemiology of completed suicide in rural areas of many developing countries, yet suicide is an indicator of the sustainable development goals on health.

Methods: Using data collected between 2008 and 2016 from the Kilifi Health and Demographic Surveillance System in rural Kenya, we retrospectively determined the incidence rate and risk factors for completed suicide.

Results: During the period, 104 people died by suicide, contributing to 0.78% (95% CI = 0.74-1.10) of all deaths. The mean annual incidence rate of suicide was 4.61 (95% CI = 3.80-5.58) per 100,000 person years of observation (pyo). The annual incidence rate for men was higher than that of women (IRR = 3.05, 95% CI = 1.98-4.70, p < 0.001) and it increased with age (IRR = 2.73, 95% CI = 2.30-3.24, p < 0.001). People aged > 64 years had the highest mean incidence rate of 18.58 (95% CI = 11.99-28.80) per 100,000 pyo. Completed suicide was associated with age, being male, and living in a house whose wall is made of scrap material, which is a proxy marker of extreme poverty in this region (OR = 5.5, 95% CI = 4.0-7.0, p = 0.02). Most cases (76%) completed suicide by hanging themselves. Spatial heterogeneity of rates of suicides was observed across the enumeration zones of the KHDSS.

Conclusions: Suicide is common in this area, but the incidence of completed suicide in rural Kenya may be an underestimate of the true burden. Like in other studies, suicide was associated with older age, being male and poverty, but other medical and neuropsychiatric risk factors should be investigated in future studies.

Keywords: Demographic surveillance system; Incidence; Kenya; Risk factors; Suicide; Verbal autopsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death / trends*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*