An Ecological Study of Community-Level Correlates of Suicide Mortality Rates in the Flemish Region of Belgium, 1996–2005


Address correspondence to Marc Hooghe and Bram Vanhoutte, Dpt. Political Science, University of Leuven, Park Street 45, boîte 3602, Leuven, BE-3000, Belgium; E-mails:,


An ecological study of age-standardized suicide rates in Belgian communities (1996–2005) was conducted using spatial regression techniques. Community characteristics were significantly related to suicide rates. There was mixed support for the social integration perspective: single person households were associated with higher suicide rates, while religious participation was unrelated and both immigration and the presence of non-European inhabitants had a negative impact. Deprivation had a positive relation with suicide. Population density had a negative influence on suicide rates. Areas with older populations had higher suicide risks than expected. A spatial contagion effect of neighboring communities was present for men. In the conclusion, hypotheses are presented on why an aging population could be associated with higher suicide rates in the community.