Religion and assisted and non-assisted suicide in Switzerland: National Cohort Study

Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.
International Journal of Epidemiology (Impact Factor: 9.18). 12/2010; 39(6):1486-94. DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyq141
Source: PubMed


In the 19th century, eminent French sociologist Emile Durkheim found suicide rates to be higher in the Protestant compared with the Catholic cantons of Switzerland. We examined religious affiliation and suicide in modern Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal.
The 2000 census records of 1,722,456 (46.0%) Catholics, 1,565,452 (41.8%) Protestants and 454,397 (12.2%) individuals with no affiliation were linked to mortality records up to December 2005. The association between religious affiliation and suicide, with the Protestant faith serving as the reference category, was examined in Cox regression models. Hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were adjusted for age, marital status, education, type of household, language and degree of urbanization.
Suicide rates per 100,000 inhabitants were 19.7 in Catholics (1664 suicides), 28.5 in Protestants (2158 suicides) and 39.0 in those with no affiliation (882 suicides). Associations with religion were modified by age and gender (P < 0.0001). Compared with Protestant men aged 35-64 years, HRs (95% CI) for all suicides were 0.80 (0.73-0.88) in Catholic men and 1.09 (0.98-1.22) in men with no affiliation; and 0.60 (0.53-0.67) and 1.96 (1.69-2.27), respectively, in men aged 65-94 years. Corresponding HRs in women aged 35-64 years were 0.90 (0.80-1.03) and 1.46 (1.25-1.72); and 0.67 (0.59-0.77) and 2.63 (2.22-3.12) in women aged 65-94 years. The association was strongest for suicides by poisoning in the 65-94-year-old age group, the majority of which was assisted: HRs were 0.45 (0.35-0.59) for Catholic men and 3.01 (2.37-3.82) for men with no affiliation; 0.44 (0.36-0.55) for Catholic women and 3.14 (2.51-3.94) for women with no affiliation.
In Switzerland, the protective effect of a religious affiliation appears to be stronger in Catholics than in Protestants, stronger in older than in younger people, stronger in women than in men, and particularly strong for assisted suicides.

11 Reads
  • Source
    • "Nevertheless, the strong Roman Catholic culture could also contribute to preventing some suicides, due to the beliefs and social norms associated with Catholicism. Similar protective effects of Catholicism have been reported in a recent analysis of data from Switzerland [28]. Likewise, predominantly Catholic countries in Europe such as Portugal, Spain and Italy have amongst the lowest suicide rates in that region. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Suicide prevention is given a low priority in many Western Pacific countries due to competing health problems, stigma and poor understanding of its incidence and aetiology. Little is known about the epidemiology of suicide and suicidal behaviour in the Philippines and although its incidence is reported to be low, there is likely to be under-reporting because of its non-acceptance by the Catholic Church and the associated stigma to the family. This study aims to investigate trends in the incidence of suicide in the Philippines, assess possible underreporting and provide information on the methods used and the reasons for suicide. Data for suicide deaths occurring between 1974 and 2005 were obtained from Philippine Health Statistics. Age- and sex-specific trends were examined graphically. Underreporting was investigated by comparing trends in suicides, accidents and deaths of undetermined intent. To provide a fuller picture of suicide in the Philippines, a comprehensive search for published papers, theses and reports on the epidemiology of suicide in the Philippines was undertaken. The incidence of suicide in males increased from 0.23 to 3.59 per 100,000 between 1984 and 2005. Similarly, rates rose from 0.12 to 1.09 per 100,000 in females. Amongst females, suicide rates were highest in 15-24 year olds, whilst in males rates were similar in all age groups throughout the study period. The most commonly used methods of suicide were hanging, shooting and organophosphate ingestion. In non-fatal attempts, the most common methods used were ingestion of drugs, specifically isoniazid and paracetamol, or organophosphate ingestion. Family and relationship problems were the most common precipitants. While rates were lower compared to other countries, there is suggestive evidence of underreporting and misclassification to undetermined injury. Recent increases may reflect either true increase or better reporting of suicides. While suicide rates are low in the Philippines, increases in incidence and relatively high rates in adolescents and young adults point to the importance of focused suicide prevention programs. Improving data quality and better reporting of suicide deaths is likewise imperative to inform and evaluate prevention strategies.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2011 · BMC Public Health
  • Source

    Preview · Article · Oct 2010 · International Journal of Epidemiology

  • No preview · Article · Oct 2010 · International Journal of Epidemiology
Show more