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Religion and Suicidal Behavior Among Black Americans

a PSC Research Project

Investigators:   Sean Joe, Linda M. Chatters, Robert J. Taylor, James M. Lepkowski

Remarkably little is known about protective factors that reduce Blacks' risk for suicide or attempted suicide. In particular, the link between religion and suicide risk reduction in blacks has never been demonstrated with a nationally representative sample, particularly one that also takes into account ethnic groups' differences. The death in suicide research among blacks is due primilary to not having data set with large enough numbers of black Americans from which to draw meaningful conclusions. The proposed research aims to provide a comprehensive examination of whether religious participation and spirituality are correlated with reductions in the risk for serious suicidal behavior (e.g., attempted suicide, suicide planning) in a nationally representative sample of 5,191 African Americans and Black Caribbeans. The public health significance lies in specifying religious factors related to lower suicide risk, which will inform subsequent suicide prevention interventions and strategies. The present study is designed to make four important contributions to the advancement of research on religion and spirituality’s effects on suicidal behavior among African Americans, namely by: (1) capitalizing on the strengths of a large, nationally representative data set, the National Survey of American Life [NSAL]; (2) determining whether religiosity and spirituality are associated with reductions in the risk for suicide attempts and serious suicide planning by Blacks; and (3) investigating the relative effects of informal social support from both church members and family members on reductions in the risk for suicide attempts and serious suicide planning by Blacks. And whether and through what mechanisms informal social support (e.g., church and family social support) may moderate or mediate the pathways of religiosity to black suicidal behavior. The data analytic approaches to be used include regression, logistic regression, multi-nominal logistic regression, Cox proportional hazard model, and structural equation modeling.

Funding Period: 07/25/2008 to 04/30/2012

Country of Focus: USA

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