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Friday, August 24, 2007

Atheism and suicide

Concerning suicide rates, this is the one indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations. According to the 2003 World Health Organization’s report on international male suicides rates (which compared 100 countries), of the top ten nations with the highest male suicide rates, all but one (Sri Lanka) are strongly irreligious nations with high levels of atheism. It is interesting to note, however, that of the top remaining nine nations leading the world in male suicide rates, all are former Soviet/Communist nations, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia( viii ). Of the bottom ten nations with the lowest male suicide rates, all are highly religious nations with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism.


Very good read, by the way.

My comment:

I think this is a simple problem. Suicide rates are correlated to autopsy rates. If you autopsy people who have died under unclear circumstances you are going to discover a lot of suicide that will otherwise be missed. The "top ten nations" above autopsy a lot of people and find a lot of suicides. They also don't lie about it frequently enough to depress the numbers. Also, clinical practices have a big impact - if you classify acute or chronic alcohol poisoning as suicide (which is not too far-fetched if you ask me) it's going to have a huge impact on suicide rates in "former Soviet/Communist nations". I believe this is often the case.

On the other hand, not much of a fuss is made about people killing themselves in places where everyone is living on less than $1 a day AND open suicide is a religious big deal. The best example of this is India where suicide is commonplace in rural areas and most of it gets quickly swept under the rug. The Sri Lankans are anomalously honest about it, I don't know why.

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