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Spirituality and attempted suicide among American Indians


  • Garroutte, Eva Marie
  • Goldberg, Jack
  • Beals, Janette
  • Herrell, Richard
  • Manson, Spero M.


American Indians exhibit suicide-related behaviors at rates much higher than the general population. This study examines the relation of spirituality to the lifetime prevalence of attempted suicide in a probability sample of American Indians. Data were derived from a cross-sectional sample of 1456 American Indian tribal members (age range 15-57Â yr) who were living on or near their Northern Plains reservations between 1997 and 1999. Data were collected by personal interviews. Commitment to Christianity was assessed using a measure of beliefs. Commitment to tribal cultural spirituality (or forms of spirituality deriving from traditions that predate European contact) was assessed using separate measures for beliefs and spiritual orientations. Results indicated that neither commitment to Christianity nor to cultural spirituality, as measured by beliefs, was significantly associated with suicide attempts (ptrend for Christianity=0.22 and ptrend for cultural SPIRITUALITY=0.85). Conversely, commitment to cultural spirituality, as measured by an index of spiritual orientations, was significantly associated with a reduction in attempted suicide (ptrend=0.01). Those with a high level of cultural spiritual orientation had a reduced prevalence of suicide compared with those with low level of cultural spiritual orientation. (OR=0.5, 95% CI=0.3, 0.9). This result persisted after simultaneous adjustment for age, gender, education, heavy alcohol use, substance abuse and psychological distress. These results are consistent with anecdotal reports suggesting the effectiveness of American Indian suicide-prevention programs emphasizing orientations related to cultural spirituality.

Suggested Citation

  • Garroutte, Eva Marie & Goldberg, Jack & Beals, Janette & Herrell, Richard & Manson, Spero M., 2003. "Spirituality and attempted suicide among American Indians," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(7), pages 1571-1579, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:56:y:2003:i:7:p:1571-1579

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