Social integration, such as being married, attending religious services, and having a large network of friends protects men against suicide, according to a study being published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Suicide is one of the top 10 leading causes of death among men in the United States. Prevention efforts usually emphasize the study of psychiatric, psychological, or biological determinants. However, research has shown that a substantial proportion of suicidal behaviors occur in the absence of a formally diagnosed mental disorder, suggesting that a deeper understanding of factors driving suicide is needed. Researchers used data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, an ongoing prospective cohort study of 34,901 men aged 40 to 75, to estimate the association between social integration and suicide mortality over 24 years of follow-up.
Social integration was measured with a seven-item index that included marital status, social network size, frequency of contact, religious participation, and participation in other social groups. Marriage, frequent attendance at religious services, and having a large social network seemed especially protective.