Is There a Link Between Familial Religiosity and Suicidal Ideation in Offspring?

Share this content:
Overall, girls showed a significant decrease in the odds for suicidal ideation or attempts with increasing belief in religious importance. Boys showed no significant association.
Overall, girls showed a significant decrease in the odds for suicidal ideation or attempts with increasing belief in religious importance. Boys showed no significant association.

Daughters of religious parents may be at lower risk for suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry. Additionally, religious importance in a parent was inversely associated with suicidal ideation and attempts in offspring, but religious attendance was not. These results were found to be independent of parental depression, suicide ideation, and marital status.

Researchers analyzed data from an ongoing 3-generation study of families, following them for up to 30 years. The first generation (G1) included adults with no history of depression and adults clinically identified as having a history of major depressive disorder. Offspring of the second- and third-generation (G2 and G3, respectively) were invited to participate in the study at 6 years or older. Participants were assessed at the outset of participation and 2, 10, 20, 25, and 30 years later. Analysis of the data focused solely on G3 offspring who were aged 6 to 18 years during at least 1 assessment and who also had a religiosity assessment at the same time as their parent (G2) who was the biological offspring of a G1 participant.

The final analysis included data from 214 G3 individuals who fit the criteria. Between the ages of 6 and 18 years, 39 reported suicidal ideation or attempts, with the average age being 12.3 (standard deviation [SD]=3.5); 175 did not. Overall, girls showed a significant decrease in the odds for suicidal ideation or attempts with increasing belief in religious importance (odds ratio [OR], 0.48; 95% CI, 0.33-0.70; P <.001). Boys showed no significant association. No significant association was found in G3 or G2 religious attendance overall, but higher parental belief in religious importance corresponded with lower suicidal ideation or attempts in offspring (OR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.41-0.91; P =.02)

The researchers noted that the sample was drawn from the greater New Haven area of Connecticut, and the people represented in the sample were predominately white Catholics and Protestants.

The researchers concluded that "clinically, these findings suggest that a parent's belief in religious importance should not be overlooked in considering factors for suicidal behavior" and suggest there may even be alternative and additional ways to help children and adolescents who are at risk.

Disclosures: In the past 3 years, Dr Weissman received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Sackler Foundation, and the Templeton Foundation and receives royalties from the Oxford University Press, Perseus Press, the American Psychiatric Association Press, and MultiHealth Systems. Dr Saeed's work was conducted as a visiting researcher at Columbia University. No other disclosures are reported.

Reference

Svob C, Wickramaratne P, Reich L, et al. Association of parent and offspring religiosity with offspring suicide ideation and attempts [published online August 8, 2018]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.2060

Free E-Newsletter