Evidence Shows Faith In God May Be The Answer To The Epidemic Of Women Committing Suicide

Research shows faith improves mental health for all Americans, but especially for women.

By Carrie Sheffield3 min read
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Police said a devastating St. Louis area house fire appears to be a murder-suicide, with the beautiful 39-year-old mother, a former Missouri Teacher of the Year, lighting the flames that killed herself and her four children. Her own attorney told The New York Post, “She was one of the rare clients you get in family law that is not only upbeat, but was not putting on a show…apparently, I missed every sign.”

Why American Women Are Killing Themselves More Often

Sadly, this type of story is becoming far more common in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last year released provisional data showing 49,449 people committed suicide in the United States in 2022. This nearly 3% increase from 2021 is the highest number ever recorded and the highest rate since 1941 – the aftershock of the Great Depression.

Suicides increased steadily this century, rising among men and women in almost every age and race group, the CDC reports, leading the U.S. Surgeon General to launch a national suicide prevention strategy in 2021.

Women ages 25 to 34 saw a nearly 7% increase in suicides in 2022, with Gallup reporting young women are the most diagnosed with depression.

Men, especially senior men, are more likely to die by suicide, but women’s suicide rate rose more rapidly than for men in 2022 – by 4% for women, compared to 1% for men. Women ages 25 to 34 saw a nearly 7% increase in 2022, with Gallup reporting young women are the most diagnosed with depression. These troubling trends among women of childbearing age bode poorly for America’s future birth rates.

Today, the generational divide is stark compared to when Gen X women were younger. Suicides comprised 4.4 deaths per 100,000 among Gen X women when they were ages 25 to 34, alarmingly rising to 7 deaths per 100,000 women among today’s millennials, according to a 2023 analysis by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

Why are America’s young women killing themselves more often? Evidence suggests partially, as PRB notes, “the rise of social media platforms that are central to the social lives of many young women…use of these platforms has also been associated with poor body image, low self-esteem, worsening mental health, and increased suicide and self-harm behaviors.” 

In 2021, The Wall Street Journal exposed internal documents showing Instagram leaders knew the platform harms young women’s mental health yet willfully downplayed its effects.

Another factor is money. The Aspen Institute reported that “16% of suicides in the U.S. occur in response to a financial problem,” and while Covid stimulus checks boosted the finances of some young people, nearly 20% of people ages 18 to 24 with a credit record in America have debt in collections, according to a 2022 report by Urban Institute.

Covid isolation also hit younger people’s mental health far harder than people over age 40, according to Northwestern University researchers.

There’s also worldview. Studies from Gallup/Axios and Financial Times show a widening ideological gender gap among young men compared to young women, who are more likely than ever to describe themselves as “liberal.” Young liberals are markedly more depressed than young conservatives and more likely self-described atheists and agnostics. 

AP-NORC polling released in October found that 3 in 10 U.S. adults claimed no religious affiliation, though the figure was higher at 43% among 18- to 29-year-olds compared to just 20% of U.S. adults over 60.

Faith As an Antidote to Despair

Given these trends, it’s worth highlighting data illustrating the public health benefits of faith

Women participating in religious services at least weekly are 68% less likely to die from drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, and suicide – known as “deaths of despair.” Men are 33% less likely, according to 2020 research led by Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

Women participating in religious services at least weekly are 68% less likely to die from drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, and suicide.

A 2023 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper showed states with declining religious participation displayed increases in deaths of despair and vice versa. A literature review appearing in Psychiatric Times reported, “Of 93 observational studies, two-thirds found lower rates of depressive disorder with fewer depressive symptoms in persons who were more religious.”

Unfortunately, psychology professors (along with biologists) are least likely among all disciplines to believe in God, Harvard reported. This is a toxic combination. The same trained “experts” ordained to heal mental disorders are the very ones hostile to the balm that rescues young women (and all patients).

Militant atheist Karl Marx railed against religion as the “opium of the masses,” diverting everyday people’s pains amidst oppression. In truth, people of faith are more likely to challenge poverty and despair than nonbelievers. Believers are more likely to vote, adopt a child, volunteer, and contribute to charity than nonbelievers. They’re also most likely to report they’re “very happy.” 

With robust evidence for faith healing the mind, it’s particularly urgent for faith-based healthcare systems – massive operations in Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, and other faith traditions – to better integrate spirituality with mental healthcare.

We need faith to improve mental health for all Americans, especially growing numbers of young women sinking into despair.

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