Spirituality and attempted suicide among American Indians

Eva Marie Garroutte, Jack Goldberg, Janette Beals, Richard Herrell, Spero M. Manson, Cecelia Big Crow, Dedra Buchwald, Buck Chambers, Michelle Christensen, Denise Dillard, Karen DuBray, Paula Espinoza, Candace Fleming, Ann Wilson Frederick, Joe Gone, Diana Gurley, Lori Jervis, Shirlene Jim, Carol Kaufman, Ellen KeaneSuzell Klein, Denise Lee, Monica McNulty, Denise Middlebrook, Christina Mitchell, Laurie Moore, Tilda Nez, Ilena Norton, Douglas Novins, Theresa O'Nell, Heather Ortonm, Carlette Randall, Angela Sam, James Shore, Sylvia Simpson, Paul Spicer, Lorette Yazzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


American Indians exhibit suicide-related behaviors at rates much higher than the general population. This study examines the relation of spirituality to the lifetime prevalence of attempted suicide in a probability sample of American Indians. Data were derived from a cross-sectional sample of 1456 American Indian tribal members (age range 15-57yr) who were living on or near their Northern Plains reservations between 1997 and 1999. Data were collected by personal interviews. Commitment to Christianity was assessed using a measure of beliefs. Commitment to tribal cultural spirituality (or forms of spirituality deriving from traditions that predate European contact) was assessed using separate measures for beliefs and spiritual orientations. Results indicated that neither commitment to Christianity nor to cultural spirituality, as measured by beliefs, was significantly associated with suicide attempts (ptrend for Christianity=0.22 and ptrend for cultural spirituality=0.85). Conversely, commitment to cultural spirituality, as measured by an index of spiritual orientations, was significantly associated with a reduction in attempted suicide (ptrend=0.01). Those with a high level of cultural spiritual orientation had a reduced prevalence of suicide compared with those with low level of cultural spiritual orientation. (OR=0.5, 95% CI=0.3, 0.9). This result persisted after simultaneous adjustment for age, gender, education, heavy alcohol use, substance abuse and psychological distress. These results are consistent with anecdotal reports suggesting the effectiveness of American Indian suicide-prevention programs emphasizing orientations related to cultural spirituality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1571-1579
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2003


  • American Indians
  • Measurement
  • Religion
  • Spirituality
  • Suicide
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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