Social status and suicidal activity among psychiatric patients: Moderating effects of gender, race and psychiatric diagnosis
Kaplan, K.J. & Harrow, M.
The relationship between suicide and social class has proved to be complex. Durkheim predicted suicide rates would increase with social status, while others thought the opposite. Results have been mixed. In some studies, suicidality has increased with increasing social status, and in other studies, the two variables have had an inverse relationship. These studies have been primarily conducted on general non-psychiatric populations The present study, in contrast, examines this relationship on a 20-year prospective longitudinal sample of 400 psychiatric patients (differentiated by psychiatric diagnosis) after index hospitalization. Of these, 160 patients show some sign of suicide risk (87 cases of suicidal ideation, 41 of suicide attempts, and 32 suicide completions). A complicated pattern emerges across psychiatric diagnosis, gender, and race. The great majority of patients show no statistically significant relationship between social status and suicide risk. At the maximally different extremes, however, a dramatic difference does emerge. White women diagnosed with nonpsychotic depression show a positive relationship between social status and suicide risk (p < .01) while black men diagnosed with schizophrenia show a negative relationship between these 2 variables (p < .02). The relationship between social status and suicidality among psychiatric patients varies across race, gender, and psychiatric diagnosis. More research needs to be done on this complex and important topic, especially with regard to samples of psychiatric patients. The role of anomie should be studied.