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Suicide risk much lower among church-going women, medical study finds

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JAMA finds Catholics 20 times less likely to take their lives

Weeks after a government report showing a sharp increase in suicides in the United States, particularly among pre-adolescent girls, a medical report is showing that women between the ages of 30 and 55 who attend church weekly are six times less likely to commit suicide than women who never attend church.

The report, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, says that Catholic women who attend church at least weekly are 20 times less likely to commit suicide than women who never attend church. Protestant women are approximately three times less likely. The study explained:

Among 89,708 women aged 30 to 55 years who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, attendance at religious services once per week or more was associated with an approximately 5-fold lower rate of suicide compared with never attending religious services (hazard ratio, 0.16; 95% CI, 0.06-0.46). Service attendance once or more per week vs less frequent attendance was associated with a hazard ratio of 0.05 (95% CI, 0.006-0.48) for Catholics but only 0.34 (95% CI, 0.10-1.10) for Protestants (P = .05 for heterogeneity). Results were robust in sensitivity analysis and to exclusions of persons who were previously depressed or had a history of cancer or cardiovascular disease. There was evidence that social integration, depressive symptoms, and alcohol consumption partially mediated the association among those occasionally attending services, but not for those attending frequently.

The study noted that suicide is among the 10 leading causes of death in the United States and the fourth leading cause of death for persons aged 18 to 65 years. “Despite improvements in mental health, the suicide rate in the United States (12 per 100,000) is approximately the same as it was more than 100 years ago,” it said.

More to read: Suicides are up — what to do about it?

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