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Objective. Research on the predictors of individual-level attitudes toward suicide has neglected the possible role of contextual-level predictors. The present study addresses this gap in the literature by assessing the association between suicide rates and the attitudes of individuals. Based on social learning theory, it is argued that persons socialized in nations with relatively high rates of suicide are more likely to be exposed to suicidal role models, which provide positive definitions of suicide.

Methods. Data refer to 40,873 adults in 31 nations, and are taken from the World Health Organization and World Values Surveys. Given the bi-level nature of the data, hierarchical linear modeling techniques (HLM) are utilized. Additional predictor variables are incorporated from previous research and include religious participation and political orientation from social learning theory, marital status and life satisfaction from control theory, and basic demographics such as age and gender.

Results. The results of the HLM indicate that controlling for individual-level predictors, as well as other Level 2 variables, persons residing in nations with relatively high suicide rates are more approving of suicide than their counterparts. The model was replicated for the prediction of support for euthanasia. A social learning perspective was further supported by results linking 1970 suicide rates with suicide acceptability among older adults in 1990.

Conclusion. National suicide rates are predictive of individual-level suicide acceptability. However, the main predictors of suicide acceptability included a measure from social learning theory, religiosity, and a neglected measure of control theory, life satisfaction.