The International Handbook of Suicide Prevention: Research, Policy and Practice

By Rory C. O’Connor; Jane Pirkis | Go to book overview

14
Sociological Perspectives
on Suicide
A Review and Analysis of Marital
and Religious Integration

Steven Stack and Augustine J. Kposowa

Durkheim’s (1897) classic work on suicide has stimulated much of the sociological work on the subject. The concept of social integration (e.g., ties to social groups) has guided much of the sociological literature. The reciprocal subordination of the individual to others in a group is thought to protect against egoism (weak subordination to social groups) and suicide. Marriage and religion are the two most researched institutions providing opportunities for integration. Persons with low integration, such as the divorced and those lacking a religious affiliation, would be expected to have less meaning in life and be high in suicide risk.


Marital Integration and the Prevention of Suicide: A Review

Research based on concrete, individual data has tended to find that divorced persons have a higher rate of suicide than married persons. A review of 37 such studies found that 426/493 findings (86.4%) showed that divorced persons had a higher suicide risk than their married counterparts (Stack, 2000b). A systematic epidemiological study by the World Health Organization (1968) still provides the largest set of relevant cross-national data. The key measure employed is the coefficient of aggravation, or the ratio of the suicide rate of the divorced over that of married persons. Around 1960, the coefficients of aggravation for males, by nation, included: Denmark 6.2, Finland 4.2, France 2.2, West Germany 5.0, Italy 3.6, Netherlands, 5.1, Norway 3.6, the United States 4.2, Sweden 3.8, Switzerland 4.5, England 3.8, and Australia 4.2. Corresponding female coefficients of aggravation were: Denmark 4.6, Finland 2.9, France 1.9, West Germany 3.1, Italy 17.0, Netherlands 3.6, Norway 2.9, Sweden 3.4, Switzerland 3.4, England 2.6, and Australia 4.1 (World Health Organization, 1968). There is substantial variation in the coefficient of aggravation across nations, but the coefficient of aggravation is always greater than one.

The International Handbook of Suicide Prevention, Second Edition. Edited by Rory C. O’Connor and Jane Pirkis. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2016 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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