Disclosures: Awaad reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
July 29, 2021
2 min read

Suicide attempt more common among Muslim adults than people of other faiths

Disclosures: Awaad reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Muslim adults in the U.S. were twice as likely to report a history of suicide attempt compared with individuals from other faith traditions, according to results of a survey in a research letter published in JAMA Psychiatry.

“There are very few studies on suicide and Muslims, particularly in the U.S.,” Rania Awaad, MD, director of the Stanford Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology Lab at Stanford University School of Medicine, told Healio Psychiatry. “Our study aimed to understand the increasing number of suicide attempts in U.S. Muslims we were seeing anecdotally and in clinical settings.”

infographic with Awaad quote

Awaad and colleagues analyzed data of participants of the 2019 Institute for Social Policy and Understanding national community-based survey, which was conducted via phone and online in January 2019. Participants self-reported demographic information and self-identified their religion as agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, do not know, Hindu, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, no religion, Orthodox, Protestant, something else or Unitarian. They also self-identified their race and ethnicity as African American, Arab, Asian/Chinese/Japanese/Indian/Pakistani, Native American/American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, mixed, Hispanic, white or other.

The survey also investigated lifetime suicide attempt via the following question, adapted from the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale: “Have you ever tried to do anything to try to kill yourself or make yourself not alive anymore?”

The researchers included 2,376 participants in the sample. Of these, 34% were Muslim, 52% were men, 65% were white, 34% were aged 30 years to 49 years, 29% had an annual income of more than $100,000, 31% had a bachelor’s degree, 48% considered religiosity very important, and 81% were born in the U.S.

Results showed 7.9% of Muslim, 5.1% of Protestant, 6.1% of Catholic and 3.6% of Jewish participants reported a lifetime suicide attempt. Muslim participants 2.18 (95% CI, 1.13-4.2) times more often reported a lifetime suicide attempt compared with Protestant participants after adjustment for demographic factors. Those who identified as Jewish, Catholic, atheist/agnostic and other Christian denomination did not have significantly different odds of reporting past-year suicide attempt as Protestant participants. The researchers noted level of religiosity did not affect odds of reporting suicide attempt.

“Our finding that U.S. Muslims had twice the rate of suicide attempts as members of other faith and non-faith groups is alarming and needs to be studied in more depth to better understand if this trend is reversing,” Awaad said. “This also changes the discourse within the Muslim community that faith alone prevents depression or suicidality, with this finding a wake-up call for the American Muslim community that draws attention to the potential scale of the problem. Furthermore, considering the differences in our findings between Muslims and members of other faith/non-faith groups, it is imperative that suicide response efforts are specifically custom-tailored to this faith-based population.”