From the Journals

Parents’ religiosity tied to reduced suicide risk in girls



Girls with parents who considered religion important in their lives were less likely to consider or attempt suicide, according to Connie Svob, PhD, of Columbia University, New York, and her associates.

Data were collected from an ongoing, 30-year, three-generational, observational study at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University. In the study, the second and third generations were determined to be at high or low risk for major depressive disorder because of either the presence or absence of MDD in the first generation.

The study included 214 children aged 6-18 years from 112 unique families, who had undergone at least one assessment of religiosity, and a parent from each included family. Among the children, religious importance was associated with reduced suicide risk in girls (OR, 0.48; 95% CI, 0.33-0.70) but not in boys (OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 0.74-1.80).

A similar association was found for religious attendance, where girls saw a reduced risk (OR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.49-0.84) and boys did not (OR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.69-1.27), Dr. Svob and her associates reported in JAMA Psychiatry.

“These findings suggest that a parent’s belief in the importance of religion may be a more robust factor than a parent’s attendance at religious services and make one wonder whether religious importance might be more strongly associated with teaching and beliefs about suicide within the home than is service attendance, or whether some other mechanism might be responsible,” the authors noted.

Study limitations included a homogeneous population who were all white and predominantly Roman Catholic or Protestant, as well as a small sample size of children with suicidal behavior or ideation.

Our data suggest there may be alternative and additional ways to help children and adolescents at highest risk for suicidal behavior,” Dr. Svob and her associates wrote. “These include conducting a brief spiritual history with parents of offspring being brought in for psychiatric consultations, as well as assessing an offspring’s own beliefs (religious importance) and behaviors (religious service attendance), particularly with girls.”

Dr. Svob reported no disclosures. The study was supported partly by the John Templeton Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.

SOURCE: Svob C et al. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 8. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.2060.

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