Suicide Bereavement and Differences in Religiosity: Much Ado about Sex

William Feigelman, Julie Cerel, John L. McIntosh, David Brent, Nina Gutin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The trauma from experiencing a loved one's suicide is often seen as an instigator of change in a person's religious life. Aims: We sought to examine whether suicide-bereaved adults were any differently disposed to religious participation and observances compared with the nonbereaved and whether religiously involved bereaved had any better mental health compared with religiously disaffiliated bereaved. Method: The 2016 General Social Survey (GSS) presented 11 new questions identifying suicide bereavement status. We examined how the bereaved (n = 516) compared with the nonbereaved (n = 916) in terms of their religious beliefs and participation. We also investigated whether suicide bereaved religiously committed adherents, who prayed at least weekly (n = 372), showed any better mental health compared with bereaved who were religiously disaffiliated (n = 102). Results: Initially, results showed the bereaved more inclined to pray and to believe in an afterlife compared with the nonbereaved. However, after sex differences were controlled for, most of the remaining differences between these contrasted groups faded. Limitations: Caution is advised regarding generalizations from these data to all subgroups of suicide bereaved due to the modest number of respondents in many subpopulations. The GSS does not include potentially important grief-related indices, and importantly, most of the current sample were friends of the deceased and not first-degree relatives. Conclusion: We discuss the implications of these findings and the need for further research on the interconnections between religiosity and suicide bereavement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-185
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the generous support from these seven benefactors who helped finance this research project: the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; the Irving Gutin Foundation; the Swarm Family Fund at Indiana University South Bend; Dan’s Plan Foundation; the SAVE Organization; the Kristin Rita Strouse Foundation; and the Norma Alkon Trust.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Hogrefe Publishing.


  • mental health
  • religious beliefs
  • religious participation
  • suicide bereavement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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