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PURPOSE: Lower socioeconomic position (SEP) is associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviour in high income countries, but this association is not established in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). METHODS: We investigated the association of SEP with suicidal behaviour in a prospective cohort study of 168,771 Sri Lankans followed up for episodes of attempted suicide and suicide. SEP data were collected at baseline at the household and individual level at the start of the follow-up period. We used multilevel Poisson regression models to investigate the association of SEP at community, household and individual levels with attempted suicide/suicide. RESULTS: Lower levels of asset ownership [IRR (95% CI) suicide 1.74 (0.92, 3.28); attempted suicide 1.67 (1.40, 2.00)] and education [suicide 3.16 (1.06, 9.45); attempted suicide 2.51 (1.70, 3.72)] were associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviour. The association of these measures of SEP and attempted suicide was stronger in men than women. Individuals living in deprived areas [1.42 (1.16, 1.73)] and in households with a young female head of household [1.41 (1.04, 1.93)] or a temporary foreign migrant [1.47 (1.28, 1.68)] had an elevated risk of attempted suicide. Farmers and daily wage labourers had nearly a doubling in risk of attempted suicide compared to other occupations. CONCLUSIONS: Improved employment opportunities, welfare and mental health support services, as well as problem-solving skills development, may help support individuals with poorer education, farmers, daily wage labourers, individuals in young female-headed households and temporary foreign migrant households.

Original publication




Journal article


Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol

Publication Date



Cohort study, Low and middle income country, Socioeconomic position, Sri Lanka, Suicide