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Religious Affiliation May Lower Suicide Risk

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Depressed men and women who consider themselves affiliated with a religion are less likely to attempt suicide than their non-religious counterparts, according to new study findings.

“If someone acknowledges being religious, all else being equal, they are at lower risk to act on suicidal thoughts than someone who does not acknowledge religious affiliation,” study co-author Dr. Maria A. Oquendo told Reuters Health. Further, she added, “it does not appear to make a difference what religion they state their affiliation for.” Previous research has shown that religious countries tend to have lower rates of suicide than secular nations. Studies have also shown that a higher degree of religious commitment is associated with less suicidal behavior. In the current study, Oquendo and her colleagues at Columbia University in New York City examined the influence of religious affiliation on suicide attempt in a study of 371 depressed inpatients at a psychiatric institute. About half of the study participants had attempted suicide at least once in their lifetime. Overall, men and women who said they belonged to a religion had a history of less suicide attempts than those who reported no religious affiliation, Oquendo and her team report in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Specifically, 48 percent of patients affiliated with Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism or other religion reported having attempted suicide, compared with 66 percent of those with no religious affiliation. Religious patients also reported experiencing less suicidal thoughts than did their non-religious peers, despite similar high scores on assessments of depression and hopelessness. Patients with no religious affiliation were more likely to have had a first-degree relative who committed suicide and to have a history of substance abuse, the study’s findings indicate. They also tended to be younger, were less often married or had children and were less often in contact with their family members. Upon further analysis, Oquendo and her team found that attempted suicide was most common among patients who did not think suicide was immoral and those with less feelings of family responsibility, both of which were most common among men and women with no religious affiliation. “It appears that people who state they have a religious affiliation are more likely to have moral objections to suicide and may not act on suicidal thoughts because they think it is wrong to do so,” Oquendo said. “These findings suggest that asking patients about such topics and supporting their involvement with their religious group may be protective against suicidal behavior,” she added. “Of course that has not been demonstrated, but our study suggests it is a possibility,” she said. (Source: American Journal of Psychiatry: Reuters Health: Charnicia E. Huggins: December 2004.)

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Posted On: 28 December, 2004
Modified On: 5 December, 2013


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