Sociodemographic Variables Associated with Constructs of the Interpersonal–Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behaviour




sociodemographic, perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, acquired capabilty for suicide, interpersonal theory of suicide


The Interpersonal–Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behaviour proposes that a number of distal and proximal risk factors moderate the pathway to suicidal behaviour. Distal risk factors include social, demographic and neurobiological correlates. The aim of the present study was to explore the sociodemographic variables associated with constructs of the Interpersonal–Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behaviour. In the study, I employed a cross-sectional survey design method to recruit 239 South African mental health outpatients aged 18–68 years. The participants completed a sociodemographic questionnaire, the interpersonal needs questionnaire, the interpersonal hopelessness scale and the acquired capability for suicide scale. Multiple regression analyses indicated that scores on the perceived burdensomeness subscale of the interpersonal needs questionnaire were positively associated with females, being unemployed and a lower level of educational attainment, whereas scores on the Thwarted Belongingness subscale and the interpersonal hopelessness scale were not associated with any of the sociodemographic variables. Scores on the acquired capability for suicide scale were found to be positively associated with younger ages, being male, and being employed. The study findings indicate that gender, age, unemployment and lower levels of education are implicated in the development of perceived burdensomeness and the acquired capability for suicide. The implications of the findings for social work practice are discussed.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Sarojini Naidoo, University of Johannesburg



Alabas, O. A., O. A. Tashani, G. Tabasam, and M. I. Johnson. 2012. “Gender Role Affects Experimental Pain Responses: A Systematic Review with Meta‐Analysis.” European Journal of Pain 16 (9): 1211–23. DOI:

APA (American Psychiatric Association). 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington: APA. DOI:

Aschan, L., L. Goodwin, S. Cross, P. Moran, M. Hotopf, and S. L. Hatch. 2013. “Suicidal Behaviors in South East London: Prevalence, Risk Factors and the Role of Socio-Economic Status.” Journal of Affective Disorders 150: 441–9. DOI:

Bantjes, J., and A. Kagee. 2013. “Epidemiology of Suicide in South Africa: Setting an Agenda for Future Research.” South African Journal of Psychology 43 (2): 238–51. DOI:

Bjerkeset, O., P. Romundstadt, and D. Gunnell. 2008. “Gender Differences in the Association of Mixed Anxiety and Depression with Suicide.” British Journal of Psychiatry 192: 474–5. DOI:

Burrows, S., and L. Laflamme. 2008. “Pattern Analysis of Suicide Mortality Surveillance Data in Urban South Africa.” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviour 38 (2): 209–20. DOI:

Canetto, S. S., and I. Safinofsky. 1998. “The Gender Paradox of Suicide.” Suicide and Life Threatening Behaviour 28 (1): 1–23. DOI:

Christensen, H., P. J. Batterham, A. J. Mackinnon, T. Donker, and A. Soubelet. 2014. “Predictors of the Risk Factors for Suicide Identified by the Interpersonal–Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behaviour.” Psychiatry Research 219 (2): 290–97. DOI:

Cohen, J. 1988. Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. 2nd ed. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Coope, C., J. Donovan, C. Wilson, M. Barnes, C. Metcalfe, W. Hollingworth, N. Kapur, K. Hawton, and D. Gunnell. 2015. “Characteristics of People Dying by Suicide After Job Loss, Financial Difficulties and Other Economic Stressors During a Period of Recession (2010–2011): A Review of Coroners’ Records.” Journal of Affective Disorders 183: 98–105. DOI:

Doherty, D. T., and Y. Kartalova‐O’Doherty. 2010. “Gender and Self‐Reported Mental Health Problems: Predictors of Help Seeking from a General Practitioner.” British Journal of Health Psychology 15 (1): 213–28. DOI:

DeHart, W. B., J. E. Friedel, J. M. Lown, and A. L. Odum. 2016. “The Effects of Financial Education on Impulsive Decision Making.” PLOS One 11 (7): e0159561. DOI:

Docrat, S., D. Besada, S. Cleary, E. Daviaud, and C. Lund. 2019. “Mental Health System Costs, Resources and Constraints in South Africa: A National Survey.” Health Policy and Planning 34 (9): 706–19. DOI:

Donker, T., P. J. Batterham, K. A. van Orden, and H. Christensen. 2014. “Gender-Differences in Risk Factors for Suicidal Behaviour Identified by Perceived Burdensomeness, Thwarted Belongingness and Acquired Capability: Cross-Sectional Analysis from a Longitudinal Cohort Study.” BMC Psychology 2 (1): 20. DOI:

Durkheim, E. (1897) 1951. Suicide. A Study in Sociology. New York: Free Press.

Du Toit, E. H., J. M. Kruger, S. M. Swiegers, M. van der Merwe, F. J. W. Calitz, L. Philane, and G. Joubert. 2008. “The Profile Analysis of Attempted-Suicide Patients Referred to Pelonomi Hospital for Psychological Evaluation and Treatment from 1 May 2005 to 30 April 2006.” South African Journal of Psychology 14: 20–25. DOI:

Dvorak, R. D., D. A. Lamis, and P. S. Malone. 2013. “Alcohol Use, Depressive Symptoms, and Impulsivity as Risk Factors for Suicide Proneness Among College Students.” Journal of Affective Disorders 149 (1): 326–34. DOI:

Ellis, J. B., and D. A. Lamis. 2007. “Adaptive Characteristics and Suicidal Behavior: A Gender Comparison of Young Adults.” Death Studies 31 (9): 845–54. DOI:

Fernquist, R. M. 2004. “Does Single Motherhood Protect Against Black Female Suicide?” Archives of Suicide Research 8: 163–71. DOI:

Freeman, A., A. Mergl, E. Kohls, A. Székely, R. Gusmao, E. Arensman, N. Koburger, U. Hegerl, and C. Rummel-Kluge. 2017. “A Cross-National Study on Gender Differences in Suicide Intent.” BMC Psychiatry 17 (1): 1–11. DOI:

Granato, S. L., P. N. Smith, and C. N. Selwyn. 2015. “Acquired Capability and Masculine Gender Norm Adherence: Potential Pathways to Higher Rates of Male Suicide.” Psychology of Men and Masculinity 16 (3): 246. DOI:

Harwood, D. M. H., K. Hawton, T. Hope, and R. Jacoby. 2000. “Suicide in Older People: Mode of Death, Demographic Factors, and Medical Contact Before Death.” International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 15 (8): 736–43. DOI:<736::AID-GPS214>3.0.CO;2-K

Haw, C., D. Casey, K. Holmes, and K. Hawton. 2015. “Suicidal Intent and Method of Self‐Harm: A Large‐Scale Study of Self‐Harm Patients Presenting to a General Hospital.” Suicide and Life‐Threatening Behaviour 45 (6): 732–46. DOI:

Hawton, K., C. C. Comabella, C. Haw, and K. Saunders. 2013. “Risk Factors for Suicide in Individuals with Depression: A Systematic Review.” Journal of Affective Disorders 147 (1): 17–28. DOI:

Hyland, P., S. Rochford, A. Munnelly, P. Dodd, R. Fox, F. Vallières, O. McBride, M. Shevlin, R. P. Bentall, S. Butter, and T. Karatzias. 2022. “Predicting Risk Along the Suicidality Continuum: A Longitudinal, Nationally Representative Study of the Irish Population During the COVID‐19 Pandemic.” Suicide and Life‐Threatening Behavior 52 (1): 83–98. DOI:

Joiner, T. E. 2005. Why Do People Die by Suicide? Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Kelly, S., and J. Bunting. 1998. “Trends in Suicide in England and Wales, 1982–96.” Population Trends 92: 29–41.

Meissner, B., J. Bantjes, and A. Kagee. 2016. “I Would Rather Just Go Through With It Than Be Called a Wussy: An Exploration of How a Group of Young South African Men Think and Talk About Suicide.” American Journal of Men’s Health 10 (4): 338–48. DOI:

Naidoo, S. 2016. “Testing the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behaviour (IPTS) in the South African Context. PhD dissertation, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Ortin, A., A. M. Lake, M. Kleinman, and M. S. Gould. 2012. “Sensation Seeking as Risk Factor for Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts in Adolescence.” Journal of Affective Disorders 143 (1): 214–22. DOI:

Phillips, M. R., G. Yang, Y. Zhang, L. Wang, H. Ji, and M. Zhou. 2002. “Risk Factors for Suicide in China: A National Case-Control Psychological Autopsy Study.” Lancet 360 (9347): 1728–36. DOI:

Rudd, M. D. 2000. “The Suicidal Mode: A Cognitive‐Behavioral Model of Suicidality.” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviour 30 (1): 18–33.

SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group). 2019. “SA Men Four Times More Likely to Commit Suicide than Women, WHO Report Finds.” Accessed 1 December 2022.

Schlebusch, L. 2005. Suicidal Behaviour in South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Silva, C., J. D. Ribeiro, and T. E. Joiner. 2015. “Mental Disorders and Thwarted Belongingness, Perceived Burdensomeness, and Acquired Capability for Suicide.” Psychiatry Research 226 (1): 316–27. DOI:

Stack, S. 2000. “Suicide: A 15-Year Review of the Sociological Literature. Part I: Cultural and Economic Factors.” Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior 30: 145–62.

Stack, S., and I. Wasserman. 2007. “Economic Strain and Suicide Risk: A Qualitative Analysis.” Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior 37: 103–12. DOI:

Standley, C. J., and P. Foster‐Fishman. 2021. “Intersectionality, Social Support, and Youth Suicidality: A Socioecological Approach to Prevention.” Suicide and Life‐Threatening Behavior 51 (2): 203–11. DOI:

Statistics South Africa. 2016. “Employment, Unemployment, Skills and Economic Growth. An Exploration of Household Survey Evidence on Skills Development and Unemployment Between 1994 and 2014.” Accessed 1 December 2022.

Statistics South Africa. 2021a. “Mid-Year Population Estimates 2021.” Accessed 1 December 2022.

Statistics South Africa. 2021b. “Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) – Q4:2021.” Accessed 1 December 2022.

Thornton, V. J., C. B. Asanbe, and E. G. D. Denton. 2019. “Clinical Risk Factors Among Youth at High Risk for Suicide in South Africa and Guyana.” Depression and Anxiety 36 (5): 423–32. https://doi:10.1002/da.22889. DOI:

Troya, M. I., M. J. Spittal, R. Pendrous, G. Crowley, H. C. Gorton, K. Russell, S. Byrne, R. Musgrove, S. Hannah-Swain, N. Kapur, and D. Knipe. 2022. “Suicide Rates Amongst Individuals from Ethnic Minority Backgrounds: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” EClinicalMedicine 47: 101399. DOI:

Van Orden, K. A., T. K. Witte, K. C. Cukrowicz, S. R. Braithwaite, E. A. Selby, and T. E. Joiner. 2010. “The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide.” Psychological Review 117 (2): 575. DOI:

Van Orden, K. A., T. K. Witte, K. H. Gordon, T. W. Bender, and T. E. Joiner. 2008. “Suicidal Desire and the Capability for Suicide: Tests of the Interpersonal–Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behavior among Adults.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 76 (1): 72. DOI:

West, M. E., and E. A. Boonzaier. 1989. “Population Groups, Politics and Medical Science.” South African Medical Journal 76 (5): 185–86.

WHO (World Health Organization). 2020. Suicide data. Accessed 1 December 2022.

WHO (World Health Organization). 2021. Suicide in the SDGs. Accessed 1 December 2022.

Williams, D. R., N. Priest, and N. B. Anderson. 2016. “Understanding Associations Among Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Health: Patterns and Prospects.” Health Psychology 35 (4): 407–11. DOI:

Wills, L., and M. Petrakis. 2019. “The Self in Motherhood: A Systematised Review of Relational Self-Construal and Wellbeing in Mothers.” Advances in Mental Health 17 (1): 72–84. DOI:

Woods, A. M., L. Zimmerman, E. Carlin, A. Hill, and N. J. Kaslow. 2013. “Motherhood, Reasons for Living, and Suicidality Among African American Women.” Journal of Family Psychology 27 (4): 600–6. DOI:

World Bank. 2022. “New World Bank Report Assesses Sources of Inequality in Five Countries in Southern Africa.” Accessed 1 December 2022.


2023-05-09 — Updated on 2023-05-15


How to Cite

Naidoo, Sarojini. 2023. “Sociodemographic Variables Associated With Constructs of the Interpersonal–Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behaviour”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 35 (1):21 pages.



Received 2022-05-03
Accepted 2022-09-20
Published 2023-05-15