Study finds children from Christian homes have lower suicide rates

by WorldTribune Staff, October 4, 2018

A study which examined the history of depression among three generations of people found that children living in Christian homes are less likely to commit suicide.

Researchers from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute compiled the study based on 30 years of data on families over three generations – grandparents, parents and children.

Participants in the study, which focused on 214 children ages 6 to 18 whose parents were majority Christian – 59 percent Catholic and 26 percent Protestant – were asked how often they attended religious services and the importance of religion in their lives.

Parents who placed higher importance on religion were associated with a 40 percent decrease in the risk of suicidal behavior in their children, the study found.

Compared with parents who indicated religion wasn’t important, parents who said it was “highly important” were associated with an 80 percent decrease in risk of suicidal behavior among their children, the study said.

“Previous research has examined a number of risk factors of child and adolescent suicide, but one that has received little attention is religious/spiritual belief. This is surprising given that religious beliefs and practices have been associated with lower rates of suicide,” said the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry (JAMA).

In 2016, 45,000 people died by suicide, placing suicide among the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than half of those didn’t have a known mental health condition, the CDC said.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for teenage girls.

“Our findings suggest a parent’s religiosity may be associated with lower suicide ideation and attempts in offspring independent of the offspring’s religiosity and other risk factors,” the researchers wrote. “Our data suggest there may be alternative and additional ways to help children and adolescents at highest risk for suicidal behavior.”

G. Eric Jarvis, associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal and director of cultural consultation service at Jewish General Hospital, told The Washington Times that he was “very pleased to see a study like this come out in JAMA. … Overall, it’s still a neglected field in psychiatry and mental health – the role of religion and religious factors in solidifying mental health in all generations.”

“I think this study would benefit greatly from a more in-depth analysis of a subpopulation, maybe open-ended interviews with some of these participants to have a better understanding of what they believe about their parents and about their religious background,” Jarvis said. “That might be a very helpful way to give direction for future research and hypothesis testing.”

Rob Whitley, an associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University, told The Washington Times that the practice of psychotherapy and psychiatry has been moving away from social dynamics and focusing on biology.

“A discussion like this has been missing in the field,” he said of the study.


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