Suicide rates among young adults in the United States have been on the rise in the past four decades, with white males at greatest risk. In 1897, Emile Durkheim proposed that religion provided a source of social integration that decreased the likelihood of suicide. His hypothesis was based on research of religious affiliation and suicide rates in Europe. Pope’s reanalysis of Durkheim’s data, using covariates such as economic status, casts doubt on Durkheim’s interpretation of the data. However, others have suggested that religious affiliation is an important factor in the study of suicide, and studies including religious measures other than religious affiliation have usually found an inverse association between religious activity and suicide. Specifically, Stack studied the association of church attendance and suicide and found it most significantly related in young adults, the group with the greatest decline in church attendance.
The purpose of our study is to quantify the relationship between Latter-day Saint Church activity, as measured by ordination of male members to priesthood offices, and suicide rates in the State of Utah from 1975 to 1979. The young Latter-day Saint men who attain the appropriate priesthood offices in their church provide an identifiable subpopulation of Utah males who have regular church attendance.