ARDA Working Papers Series

Suicide and Religion: New Evidence on the Differences Between Protestantism and Catholicism

Benno Torgler
Christoph A. Schaltegger

Suicide has remained a persistent social phenomenon and now accounts for more deaths than motor vehicle accidents. There has been much debate, however, over which religious constructs might best explain the variation in suicide rates. To advance knowledge in this area, we conduct two comparative empirical analyses, the first based on a 20-year panel on suicides committed in Switzerland, the second, on cross-sectional data for 414 European regions on alternative religious concepts and their relation to suicide acceptability. Our first analysis reveals that even though theological and social differences between Catholicism and Protestantism have decreased, Catholics are still less likely than Protestants to commit or accept suicide. This difference holds even after we control for such confounding factors as social and religious networks. In addition, although religious networks do mitigate suicides among Protestants, the influence of church attendance is more dominant among Catholics. Our second analysis indicates that alternative concepts such as religious commitment and religiosity strongly reduce suicide acceptance.

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