Monday, August 26, 2013

How do suicide rates respond to elections

In Australia we have a federal election in two weeks.

A way to test the social integration theory of suicide posited by Durkheim in 1897. This theory suggests that the degree of social integration effects the propensity to commit suicide. Individuals who are only loosely connected to others in a society are at an increased risk of suicide. One way people display their attachment to a society is by participating in ceremonies that reflect common sentiments of the society. Every group of people has ceremonies that unite its members and expressed its shared ideals. These ceremonies foster greater integration by providing an opportunity for members to reaffirm their attachment.


Elections serve not only the functional role of assigning governance but also celebrates a mutual belief in liberty and self determination. Research in 1973 has shown that in the United States, in presidential election years there was statistically significant fewer number of suicides compared to the same months in non election years.

Other research in 1981 also found that suicides in election years were less than non election years. However it was also shown that both the percentage of suicide deaths and the percentage of all deaths were lower in election years.

This type of research supports the large body of research that shows during wars the suicide rate of a society tends to go down which some have said supports Durkheim’s theory of suicide.


This of course highlights the need for governments to have policies that enhance local social networks that exist and to develop new ways and types of social networking. After natural disasters encouraging families to move out of the area would seem to be contra-indicated.

Also raised is the area of networking through social media and can this have an impact on the degree of social integration experienced by people belonging to that network.


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