European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 457–468 | Cite as

Suicidal thoughts and depressive feelings amongst Estonian schoolchildren: effect of family relationship and family structure

  • Algi SammEmail author
  • Liina-Mai Tooding
  • Merike Sisask
  • Kairi Kõlves
  • Katrin Aasvee
  • Airi Värnik
Original Contribution


Depressive feelings and suicidal ideation in a non-clinical sample of adolescents in Estonia were analysed in the context of family structure, mutual relationships amongst family members and schoolchildren’s preferences regarding intimate personal contacts with particular family members. Data from the WHO collaborative study ‘Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2005/2006’ (HBSC) were used. A representative sample of schoolchildren aged 11, 13 and 15 years completed the semi-structured questionnaire. The analyses included only adolescents living in households with at least one birth parent. The subjects were 4,389 schoolchildren (2,178 boys and 2,211 girls), who were divided into three groups based on: (1) suicidal thoughts, with or without depressive feelings; (2) depressive feelings; and (3) neither suicidal thoughts nor depressive feelings. Multinomial logistic regression was used. The proportion of depressive feelings increased with age for both boys and girls. Girls expressed depressive feelings more frequently than boys from ages 13 and 15 years, and suicidal thoughts from age 15 years. Self-reported satisfaction with relationships in the family reduced the likelihood of depressive feelings and suicidal thoughts. Good communication with the parents reduced the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in all age groups. Adolescents who were satisfied with their family relationships suffered less frequently from depressive feelings and suicidal thoughts. The best environment for an adolescent was a family with both birth parents. Of the adolescents in ‘non-intact’ families, those with a step-parent in the family showed suicidal thoughts more frequently than those in single-parent families. Associations between family-related variables and suicidal thoughts were significant even after adjusting for family economic deprivation score.


Depressive feelings Suicidal thoughts Adolescent Relationships in family Economic deprivation 



This study was made possible within the framework of the Estonian Science Foundation’s Project No. 7132 and Doctoral School of Estonian Centre of Behavioural and Health Sciences. HBSC is an international study carried out in collaboration with WHO/EURO. The International Coordinator of the HBSC 2005/06 survey was Candace Currie and the data bank manager was Oddrun Samdal. Thanks are due to Clare James for her thorough linguistic and stylistic revision of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Algi Samm
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Liina-Mai Tooding
    • 1
  • Merike Sisask
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kairi Kõlves
    • 2
    • 4
  • Katrin Aasvee
    • 5
  • Airi Värnik
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of TartuTartuEstonia
  2. 2.Estonian-Swedish Mental Health and Suicidology InstituteTallinnEstonia
  3. 3.Tallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia
  4. 4.Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP)Griffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.National Institute for Health DevelopmentTallinnEstonia

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