Religiosity may reduce suicidal thoughts in African-Americans

Posted on October 30, 2014

African-Americans experience an inordinate amount of psychological strain through racial discrimination, leading to depression, hopelessness, and other high risk factors for suicide, but demonstrate significantly lower rates of suicide relative to European-Americans, said Rheeda Walker, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Houston and principal researcher of a new study in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior.

Suicide does exist for African-Americans, but it’s rarely noticed and understudied. It is one of the leading causes of death among African-Americans and that approximately, 1,900 African-American adults and youth die by suicide each year.

The findings from Walker’s research provide evidence that perceived racism may play a role in suicide vulnerability. The study’s contributions are important in the context of providing evidence that despite the harmful effects of racism, extrinsic religiosity (external motivation for being religious, such as meeting people, community conformity, cultural heritage, etc.) buffered these effects.

In the current study, people who reported higher levels of more socially oriented, extrinsic religiosity did not report suicide ideation when experiencing symptoms of depression.

Although discrimination can have adverse emotional consequences, the findings suggest that the ‘use’ of religion perhaps to connect with others or to meet some other need can be emotionally helpful among individuals who experience racism. In this context, Walker hopes religion might be used to obtain social cohesion and relief from emotional distress that might be experienced by others in similar circumstances.

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Source material from Psych Central