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Going to Church Tied to Lower Suicide Risk In Women

Going to Church Tied to Lower Suicide Risk In Women

A new study reveals that women who attended religious services had a lower risk of suicide compared with women who never attended services.

Suicide is among the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. In the research, Tyler J. VanderWeele, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, and coauthors looked at associations between religious service attendance and suicide from 1996 through June 2010.

The researchers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study with their findings reported online in JAMA Psychiatry. The analysis included 89,708 women and self-reported attendance at religious services.

Among the women, who were mostly Catholic or Protestant, 17,028 attended more than once per week, 36,488 attended once per week, 14,548 attended less than once per week and 21,644 never attended based on self-reports at the study’s 1996 baseline.

Authors identified 36 suicides during follow-up.

Compared with women who never attended services, women who attended once per week or more had a five times lower risk of subsequent suicide, according to the results.

The authors note their study has limitations as they used observational data. Therefore, despite adjustment for possible interfering factors, it still could be subject to confounding by personality, impulsivity, feeling of hopelessness, or other cognitive factors.

The authors also note women in the study sample were mainly white Christians and female nurses, which can limit the study’s generalizability.

“Our results do not imply that health care providers should prescribe attendance at religious services. However, for patients who are already religious, service attendance might be encouraged as a form of meaningful social participation.

Religion and spirituality may be an under-appreciated resource that psychiatrists and clinicians could explore with their patients, as appropriate,” the study concludes.

Editorial: Association of Religious Involvement and Suicide

“What should mental health professional do with this information? … Thus, the findings by VanderWeele et al underscore the importance of obtaining a spiritual history as part of the overall psychiatric evaluation, which may identify patients who at one time were active in a faith community but have stopped for various reasons. …

Nevertheless, until others have replicated the findings reported here in studies with higher event rates (i.e., greater than 36 suicides), it would be wise to proceed cautiously and sensitively,” writes Harold G. Koenig, M.D., of Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., in a related editorial.

Source: JAMA Psychiatry

Going to Church Tied to Lower Suicide Risk In Women

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Going to Church Tied to Lower Suicide Risk In Women. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 30 Jun 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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