A study published that looked at a number of factors linked to suicide has drawn some interesting conclusions. In 2007 suicide was the 11th leading cause for death in America for all age groups. It was the 7th leading cause of death for men and poses a serious public health issue in addition to one that deeply scars family and communities.

Professor Augustine J. Kposowa of the University of California, Riverside has been studying suicide and its root causes for 20 years. In the present study he analyzed data from the U.S. Multiple Cause of Death Files for 2000 through 2004 and explored information from state-level sources. The findings of the study are sure to ruffle a few feathers amongst conservative sections of the country.

The findings show that residents of states that had the highest rates of gun ownership and were more right leaning on the political spectrum are at a greater risk to succumbing to suicide than other places in the country. Conservativism was gauged by the percentage of a state's population that voted for George H.W. Bush in the 2000 election season. The research also assessed suicide rate, church attendance, gun ownership all at the state level.

The number of suicides, totaling 131,636 for the study period, were compared to deaths from natural causes (excluding, murders, killings and accidents) during the same period.

States such as Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alabama, and West Virginia, which have the highest gun ownership rates also tend to be staunchly conservative in their political leanings.

  • Other interesting findings from the study showed:
  • The odds of committing suicide were 2.9 times higher among men than women
  • Non-Hispanic whites were nearly four times as likely to kill themselves as Non-Hispanic African Americans
  • The odds of suicide among Hispanics were 2.3 times higher than the odds among Non-Hispanic African Americans
  • Divorced and separated individuals were 38 percent more likely to kill themselves than those who were married
  • A higher percentage of church-goers at the state level reduced individual suicide risk.

Interestingly, the research showed that church attendance reduced suicide risk. "Church adherence may promote church attendance, which exposes an individual to religious beliefs, for example, about an afterlife. Suicide is proscribed in the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam." said Kposowa.

"In states with a higher percentage of the population that belong to a church, it is plausible that religious views and doctrine about suicide are well-known through sacred texts, theology or sermons, and adherents may be less likely to commit suicide."

This is was the first nationally representative study, as many previous studies had only used statistics for individual counties.

UCR study links risk of suicide with rate of gun ownership and political conservatism at the state level.

The study published in the journal Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology can be found here.