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J Biosoc Sci. 1992 Jan;24(1):97-101.

Fertility and suicide rates: a time series analysis in the United States.

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Centre for the Study of Suicide, Blackwood, New Jersey.


In a time series study of the USA from 1933 to 1984, fertility rates were associated with the suicide rates of those aged 15-44. The higher the fertility rate the lower the suicide rate for these age groups, for both whites and non-whites, and for both men and women. The results were seen as supporting Durkheim's theory of suicide.


The Durkheimian thesis that social integrating factors, such as a high birth rate, depress the suicide rate is explored in this time series study of suicide rates of 15-44 year olds from 1933-84 and fertility rates. Measures included with the unemployment rate, the divorce rate, the birth rate, military participation rate and the suicide rate. The Cochrane-Orcutt method was used to correct for serial autocorrelation. The results show that fertility rates had a significant negative relationship with suicide rates over the 50-year period. There was no association with the divorce rates. Unemployment and military participation rates were also related to the total suicide rate. In the age specific analysis, the relationship between fertility and suicide held only for ages up to 44 years. Divorce was unrelated. Unemployment was related only for suicides for ages 45-64. Involvement in war was related only in age groups 25-64. Analysis was also conducted with lags of 0,1, and 2 years for each of the 4 predictor variables and sex and age of suicides. Fertility was statistically significantly related to suicide rates for men aged 25-34 and 35-44, and women 15-24, 25-34, and 45-54 years. Time lags eliminated significance for women but not for men. In the racial analysis, fertility was significant for white women and nonwhite women, and nonwhite men. Although the correlation results are consistent with Durkheim's theory of suicide, cause and effect conclusions cannot be drawn. Fertility was associated with a lower suicide rate for young adults.

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