Religious affiliation and suicide attempt

Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Dec;161(12):2303-8. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.161.12.2303.

Abstract

Objective: Few studies have investigated the association between religion and suicide either in terms of Durkheim's social integration hypothesis or the hypothesis of the regulative benefits of religion. The relationship between religion and suicide attempts has received even less attention.

Method: Depressed inpatients (N=371) who reported belonging to one specific religion or described themselves as having no religious affiliation were compared in terms of their demographic and clinical characteristics.

Results: Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation. Unaffiliated subjects were younger, less often married, less often had children, and had less contact with family members. Furthermore, subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide. In terms of clinical characteristics, religiously unaffiliated subjects had more lifetime impulsivity, aggression, and past substance use disorder. No differences in the level of subjective and objective depression, hopelessness, or stressful life events were found.

Conclusions: Religious affiliation is associated with less suicidal behavior in depressed inpatients. After other factors were controlled, it was found that greater moral objections to suicide and lower aggression level in religiously affiliated subjects may function as protective factors against suicide attempts. Further study about the influence of religious affiliation on aggressive behavior and how moral objections can reduce the probability of acting on suicidal thoughts may offer new therapeutic strategies in suicide prevention.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Morals
  • Religion*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*