Suicidality and cultural values among Hong Kong adolescents

T. H. Lam, Sunita M. Stewart, Paul S F Yip, Gabriel M. Leung, L. M. Ho, S. Y. Ho, Peter W H Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Scholars have proposed that individualistic values resulting from globalization are associated with increasing behavioral and emotional problems among youth in modernizing cultures. This study examined specific individualistic and traditional values in the context of suicidal ideation and behaviors in Hong Kong among community adolescent youths (N=2427) ages 14-18 years. Participants indicated the extent to which self-direction/independence and obedience/respect for elders were important to them. They also reported on four progressive levels of suicidality: whether in the last year they had experienced suicidal ideation, made plans for a suicide attempt, attempted suicide, and (for attemptors) made a serious attempt requiring medical attention. After controlling for quality of family relationships and depressive symptoms, at least one of the values predicted suicidality at all but the highest level. There were sex-specific associations between values and suicidality. In general, endorsement of self-direction was correlated with reduced risk of suicidality for boys and was irrelevant to girls. In contrast, traditional emphases on obedience and respect for elders were more frequently protective against suicidality for girls and were inconsistent predictors for boys. The relationship between values and suicidality was generally independent of the effect of family relationships and depressive symptoms. Thus, values were associated with adolescent suicidality, but not consistently in the direction predicted by some theorists, and the association depended upon the adolescent's sex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-498
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Adolescents
  • Chinese culture
  • Hong Kong
  • Individualism
  • Suicide
  • Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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