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Religion and Suicide in Patients with Mental Illness or Cancer


  • We are grateful to Andreas Stuck, Katharina Huber, and Thomas Abel for helpful comments on a previous draft of this study. We also would like to thank the Federal Statistical Office whose support made the Swiss National Cohort and this study possible. This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grants 3347C0-108806 and 33CS30-134273).

Address correspondence to Radoslaw Panczak, Division of International and Environmental Health, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM), University of Bern, Finkenhubelweg 11, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland; E-mail:


In Switzerland, the highest rates of suicide are observed in persons without religious affiliation and the lowest in Catholics, with Protestants in an intermediate position. We examined whether this association was modified by concomitant psychiatric diagnoses or malignancies, based on 6,909 suicides (ICD-10 codes X60-X84) recorded in 3.69 million adult residents 2001–2008. Suicides were related to mental illness or cancer if codes F or C, respectively, were mentioned on the death certificate. The protective effect of religion was substantially stronger if a diagnosis of cancer was mentioned on the death certificate and weaker if a mental illness was mentioned.

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