Original Research

Prevalence and factors associated with suicidal ideation amongst college students in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, South Africa

Adeyinka A. Alabi, Olawumi K. Oladimeji, Oladele V. Adeniyi
South African Family Practice | Vol 63, No 1 : Part 1| a5195 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v63i1.5195 | © 2021 Adeyinka Abiodun Alabi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 July 2020 | Published: 29 January 2021

About the author(s)

Adeyinka A. Alabi, Department of Family Medicine, Walter Sisulu University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa; and, Department of Family Medicine, Dora Nginza Provincial Hospital, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Olawumi K. Oladimeji, Eastcape Midlands TVET College, Uitenhage, South Africa
Oladele V. Adeniyi, Department of Family Medicine, Walter Sisulu University, East London, South Africa; and, Department of Family Medicine, Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, East London, South Africa


Background: Suicidal behaviour amongst college students constitutes a significant social and public health problem globally. This study determined the prevalence and associated factors of suicidal ideation amongst students of higher education in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM), South Africa.

Methods: In this institution-based cross-sectional study, a multistage cluster sampling of 826 participants, drawn from a college in NMBM, was conducted from January to March 2020. Data were collected with a standardised self-administered questionnaire. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify the factors associated with suicidal ideation.

Results: Participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 24 years, with a mean age of 20.49 years (standard deviation, 1.88 years). The lifetime prevalence of suicidal ideation and plans in the preceding 12 months were 24.5% and 9.6%, respectively. The odds of suicidal ideation were higher in students who experienced bullying (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 1.89; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.35–2.65), mental illness (AOR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.35–2.65), a history of sexual assault (AOR, 2.50; 95% CI, 1.20–5.21) and experience of sexual assault by or to a close family member (AOR, 1.69; 95% CI, 1.01–2.82). Underlying chronic illness was associated with a twofold risk for suicidal ideation in both sexes.

Conclusion: About a quarter of the students sampled at the college had experienced suicidal ideation and some had had suicidal plans in the preceding 12 months. Screening for the identified risk factors amongst the student population coupled with prompt interventions would mitigate the risk of suicide in the study population.


suicidal behaviour; suicidal plans; higher education; students; South Africa


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