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Atheists Have Highest SUICIDE Rate By Brett Keane

According to a recent study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry religious affiliation is associated with significantly lower levels of suicide compared to religiously unaffiliated people, atheists and agnostics. Source: Kanita Dervic, Maria A. Oquendo, Michael F. Grunebaum, Steve Ellis, Ainsley K. Burke, and J. John Mann. "Religious Affiliation and Suicide Attempt" (161:2303-2308, December 2004).

Full article online: PsychiatryOnline | American Journal of Psychiatry | Religious Affiliation and Suicide Attempt


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.

Pitzer College sociologist Phil Zuckerman compiled country-by-country survey, polling and census numbers relating to atheism, agnosticism, disbelief in God and people who state they are non-religious or have no religious preference. These data were published in the chapter titled "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns" in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK (2005). In examining various indicators of societal health, Zuckerman concludes about suicide:
Concerning suicide rates, this is the one indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations. According to the 2003 World Health Organization's report on international male suicides rates (which compared 100 countries), of the top ten nations with the highest male suicide rates, all but one (Sri Lanka) are strongly irreligious nations with high levels of atheism. It is interesting to note, however, that of the top remaining nine nations leading the world in male suicide rates, all are former Soviet/Communist nations, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia. Of the bottom ten nations with the lowest male suicide rates, all are highly religious nations with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism.
It is important to keep in mind that atheism and agnosticism have no inherent proscription against suicide, so higher rates of suicide among agnostics and atheists should in no way be considered a failure of these belief systems. Indeed, compassionate tolerance for suicide and euthenasia are widely regarded as hallmarks of many secular societies.
The list of countries with the highest levels of atheism, agnosticism and non-belief in God (see: Largest Atheist Populations, reporting lists by Zuckerman, 2005, and Greeley/Jagodzinski, 1991) strongly correlates with countries that have the most liberal (or "progressive") laws, policies and practices regarding right-to-die, assisted suicide, and euthenasia for infants, the terminally ill, chronic pain sufferers, the handicapped, and depressed individuals. Zuckerman (2005) listed the top countries with the highest levels of atheism and non-religiousness as: Sweden, Vietnam, Denmark, Norway, Japan, Czech Republic, Finland, France, South Korea, Estonia, Germany, Russia, Hungary, Netherlands, Britain and Belgium (highest by level of non-belief, with Sweden being the highest).

A report last updated 1 March 2005 about assisted suicide (Assisted Suicide Laws Around the World, compiled by Derek Humphry, former editor of World Right-to-Die Newsletter) summarizes the situation in these proportionately more atheist/agnostic countries:

...Sweden [ranked #1 on the list of countries with the highest proportion of atheists/agnostics] has no law specifically proscribing assisted suicide...
Norway [ranke #4 ] has criminal sanctions against assisted suicide by using the charge "accessory to murder"... A retired Norwegian physician, Christian Sandsdalen, was found guilty of wilful murder in 2000. He admitted giving an overdose of morphine to a woman chronically ill after 20 years with MS who begged for his help... Dr. Sandsdalen died at 82 and his funeral was packed with Norway's dignitaries, which is consistent with the support always given by intellectuals to euthanasia.

Finland [ranked #7 ] has nothing in its criminal code about assisted suicide. Sometimes an assister will inform the law enforcement authorities of him or her of having aided someone in dying, and provided the action was justified, nothing more happens. Mostly it takes place among friends...

Germany [ranked #1 1] has had no penalty for either suicide or assisted suicide since 1751...

France [ranked #8 ] does not have a specific law banning assisted suicide, but such a case could be prosecuted under 223-6 of the Penal Code for failure to assist a person in danger. Convictions are rare and punishments minor...

Denmark [ranked #3 ] has no specific law banning assisted suicide...

In England and Wales [ranked #1 5] there is a possibility of up to 14 years imprisonment for anybody assisting a suicide. Oddly, suicide itself is not a crime, having been decriminalized in 1961. Thus it is a crime to assist in a non-crime. In Britain, no case may be brought without the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions in London, which rules out hasty, local police prosecutions... there have been eight Bills or Amendments introduced into Parliament between 1936-2003, all trying to modify the law to allow careful, hastened death. None has succeeded, but the Joffe Bill currently before Parliament is getting more serious consideration than any similar measure...

Hungary [ranked #1 3] has one of the highest suicide rates in the world... Assistance in suicide or attempted suicide is punishable by up to five years imprisonment. Euthanasia practiced by physicians was ruled as illegal by Hungary's Constitutional Court (April 2003), eliciting this stinging comment from the journal Magyar Hirlap: "Has this theoretically hugely respectable body failed even to recognize that we should make legal what has become practice in everyday life."

...in Estonia [ranked #1 0]... lawmakers say that as suicide is not punishable the assistance in suicide is also not punishable.

The only four places that today openly and legally, authorize active assistance in dying of patients, are:

1. Oregon [the U.S. state with the highest proportion of self-described non-religious residents] (since l997, physician-assisted suicide only); 
2. Switzerland [ranked #23 ] (1941, physician and non-physician assisted suicide only); 
3. Belgium [ranked #1 6] (2002, permits 'euthanasia' but does not define the method; 
4. Netherlands [ranked #1 4] (voluntary euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide lawful since April 2002 but permitted by the courts since l984)...

Japan [ranked #5 ] has medical voluntary euthanasia approved by a high court in l962 in the Yamagouchi case, but instances are extremely rare... The Japan Society for Dying with Dignity is the largest right-to-die group in the world with more than 100,000 paid up members

Must be hard out there, all alone. 

Religion and Suicide: Religious Affiliation, Atheism, Suicide Life is hard hug me
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