Economic and sociological analysis of suicide



          There are many reasons  why  people  commit  suicide.  People  can
decide to commit suicide themselves or be pushed  to  do  it.  Most  of  the
factors,  in  reality  can  be  explained  by  the  Cost/benefit  theory  of
Economics of Human Behaviour which says that people will do  anything  until
Marginal costs will exceed Marginal benefits.
          RELIGIOUS FACTOR  -  One  of  the  most  powerful  social  factors
determining a  level  of  suicides  is  the  religion.  Since  according  to
Cost/benefit theory people try to  minimize  their  costs  while  maximizing
benefits and will only do something if  Marginal  benefits  exceed  Marginal
costs. We can assume that if religious leaders  would  promise  better  life
and gods forgiveness of  all  sins  people  committed,  some  people  under
psychological stress would believe them and commit  suicide  since  for  the
expected benefits would exceed expected costs. This is widely  practiced  in
Islam. According to Islam to die for Allah is the greatest  thing  a  living
Muslim can do.
          In Judaism on the other hand, value of  life  is  emphasized,  and
consequently for the sake of  preservation  of  life  the  devout  Jews  are
allowed to break all religious laws, except for refusal of the  god,  murder
and  sexual  relationship  between  relatives.  The  benefits  of  life  are
emphasized in Judaism and for Jews costs of suicide are large than  benefits
since belief in afterlife is not practiced.
          In Christian countries  it  is  a  shame  to  attempt  to  destroy
yourself according to the words  of  Bible.  People  who  attempted  suicide
faced refusal of society to accept them and were  buried  on  the  edges  of
cemeteries or by the roads when died. Thus social  and  religious  costs  of
committing suicide in those countries is very  high  and  are  greater  than
benefits of facing God in Heaven. This is one of the  main  reasons  of  the
lowest level of suicides now  in  Italy,  Spain  and  number  of  the  Latin
American countries - the huge influence of Catholicism  in these  countries.
It is established by the modern researchers, that as a whole  in  countries,
where the influence of religion is weaker and religious norms  connected  in
particular with suicide are more  humanely  ,   the  percentage  of  suicide
attempts is higher. Because  in  countries  with  high  religious  influence
Gods punishment for killing yourself is much higher and people  are  afraid
to sin by even thinking about suicide.
      In  World History there were a lot of  people  who  had  the  gift  of
persuasion. These people could persuade  anyone  to  do  anything  and  even
commit suicide. These individuals often gathered citizens under  some  idea,
attacked these citizens emotionally to break their will  in  order  to  gain
full control over the minds of these people. These  evil  masterminds  often
attempted mass suicide in connection to some important religious  date  or
even public holiday.  People  believed  these  individuals  because  of  the
promises of  great  benefits  of  dying  or  of  simply  belonging  to  some
particular religious group and rejecting the rest of the world.  After  some
time the perception of persuaded people was so greatly  distorted  that  the
benefit of simply seeing the master was unsurpassed by  any  of  the  cost
they might have incurred.
          The cost of suicide also increases when considering public opinion
about suicide: What will other people think of me? .  Traditional  thought
would include God as one of the other persons who might have  and  express
disapproving  attitudes[1].  Finally,  attendance  at   religious   services
potentially gives individuals access to a support network. Those  without  a
support network are most likely to commit suicide.[2]  The  support  network
brings  a  lot  of  benefits  to  people,  things  like   new   friendships,
affiliation, understanding. This increased  benefits  of  life  compared  to
benefits of suicide and made people change their mind to stay alive.
          THE SOCIAL FACTORS - Other kind of  suicide  factors  is  directly
connected to the social reasons, is  this  case,  public  situation  of  any
group of people or concrete individual  for  many  independent  or  personal
reasons is so hard and intolerable,  in  other  words  the  cost  of  living
through another day becomes so high and exceeds benefits  by  such  a  great
amount that the  suicide  becomes  the  only  real  way  to  get  free  from
sufferings. Things that raise thoughts of suicide can be: Need of money  and
work, need for affiliation, death of a beloved person, realization of  being
unable to change things and never-ending struggle for  existence.  The  rate
of suicide in the world can be reflected by the  world  economic  stability.
During recessions many people loose their jobs and businesses  and  have  to
sell their homes and are forced to follow poor style of life.  In  1840-1850
the claim that suicide was an urban phenomenon in  Paris  and  that  it  was
related to poverty and occurred more frequently  among  laboring  poor  were
repeated by many writers[3]. For these people not only  emotional  but  also
monetary costs were enormous. This might  have  caused  depression,  sorrows
and have led to suicide attempts. It has also  proven  that  in  big  cities
rate of suicide is much higher than in countryside. According to St.  Thomas
Aquinas Every man belongs to the community. Hence  by  killing  himself  he
injures the community[4]. Thus, suicide of  person  imposes  high  marginal
cost on his friends and relatives. It is very important  to  us  what  other
people think of us and thus we will  weight  costs  and  benefits  of  dying
before attempting suicide.
          Costs and benefits  of  love  may  be  another  social  factor  of
suicide. In  Johann  Goethes  "The  Sorrows  of  Young  Werther"  the  main
character decides to die because the woman that he loves does not  love  him
back. For him the cost of realization that his expected  benefits  of  being
together with her is very high and in addition to that the  cost  of  seeing
her happy with someone else made the character to  shoot  himself,  for  him
that was the only way to stop his sorrows and the benefit of dying was  much
higher for him at that point. Unfortunate  love  of  Romeo  and  Juliet  for
example led to their  suicide,  or  in  Ethan  Frome  the  main  character
decides to slide into a tree with his beloved woman when  his  wife  refused
to let him go.  For these characters the cost  of  living  apart  from  each
other was so high that they  decided  to  die  to  be  together  in  another
life.[5] Finally many young people kill themselves  every  year  because  of
their love to some celebrity. Many attempt suicide  after  their  object  of
affection died or also committed suicide. They  do  so  because  of  a  high
expected benefit of being with him/ her in the afterlife and  high  cost  of
living without that person in their lives. E.g. watching that person  on  TV
and realizing that he/she is gone.  In  the  past,  a  person  had  to  kill
himself/herself when his/her spouse died. Examples are:  wife   of  a  well-
known in the Roman history Caesar Brut  swallowed  pieces  of  burning  coal
when she found out about death of her husband. In India the custom sati  -
self-burning of the widow together with a body of the husband  down  to  XIX
of century  was  not  simply  sample  for  imitation,  but  also  obligatory
ritual[6]
PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS - such as depression and  panic.  Several  studies  in
recent years have suggested that people with panic disorder are more  likely
to attempt suicide than patients  with  other  psychiatric  conditions.  One
explanation  was  that  panic  disorder,   when   combined   with   clinical
depression, made people more prone to  suicide[7].  "Depression  is  a  very
significant predictor of whether or not a patient with panic  disorder  will
engage in some kind  of  suicide  behavior.  But  depression  alone  doesn't
account for it all" said professor Brad Schmidt of  University  of  Ohio[8].
The study also  proved  positive  relationship  between  level  of  expected
anxiety and suicide attempts rate.  For  these  people  the  cost  of  doing
virtually anything is risen by the level of worry and if for  a  long  time,
marginal cost of living through another day is much  higher  than  benefits,
people can decide to voluntary leave this world.
Another factor is human pride and self-honor. In some countries  like  Japan
and Korea honor is very  important  self  perception,  especially  for  men.
There is  still  a  tradition  of  hara-kiri,  voluntary  self-destruction
because of failure to complete some family or  social  obligation.  For  men
who failed the cost of living with their  failure  was  too  high.  They
couldnt look into the eyes of people who they failed and the only  solution
that was considered  was hara-kiri. The benefit  of  escaping  from  shame
was so high that these men ( mostly soldiers- samurai) did  not  even  think
about physical pain and pain of their  friends  and  relatives.  During  war
times high ranked soldiers were given a chance to kill themselves  in  order
to save their honor and die like a hero.
METHODS AND TRENDS OF SUICIDE
          Methods used to commit suicide vary on  sex  and  regional  bases.
E.g. death by firearms is more common in rural areas where the  availability
of guns is higher.[9] People  attempt  to  lower  the  cost  of  the  actual
effort, thus use methods that are available to them immediately  instead  of
spending time and money and  other  resources.  The  most  common  non-fatal
suicide attempts in both sexes are drug overdoses and poisonings[10].  There
are differences in the spread of rate  of  suicide  depending  on  age:  The
facts about senior people are clear: the illnesses and  loneliness,  decline
of vital forces and absence of iridescent hopes better condition of  a  body
and spirit cause dramatic emotions "of socially active old age  ".  At  this
age the choice is between battling an increasing avalanche of  diseases  and
illnesses or intentional death. Eventhough there  are  some  benefits  (e.g.
watching grandchildren grow), the cost of living is much  higher.  Thus  the
tradeoff between life and death is not so  large.  Factors  such  as  social
pressures, rejection of people in the same social  group,  e.g.  classmates,
work partners, etc. are major causes of suicide among middle age and  youth.
Young people can sometimes commit suicide just  because  of  a  disagreement
inside family.


BIBLIOGRAPHY / RESOURCES

1. A handbook for the study of suicide edited by Seymour  Perlin.   Oxford
 University Press (1975)
2. Suicide and Homicide Andrew F. Henry and James F. Short  Jr.  The  Free
 Press, New York ( 1968)
3.
    contact://mentalhealth.about.com/library/sci/1001/blpanicsuicide1001.php?iam=s
 avvy&terms=%2Bsuicide+%2Bfactors . The Study by the professors of the Ohio
 University
4. www.religioustolerance.org  Ontario Consultants on  Religious Tolerance
5.  www.befrienders.org/info/statistics.php  .   Befrienders   International
 Suicide Statistics
6.  www.statcan.ca/english/Pgdb/People/Health/health01.phpl   Suicides,  and
 suicide rate by sex and by age group at Statistics Canada.


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[1] A Handbook of the study of suicide edited by Seymour Perlin, pg. 62
[2] Quoted from    contact://www.religioustolerance.org/sui_reli.php
[3] A Handbook of the study of suicide edited by Seymour Perlin, pg. 22
[4] A Handbook of the study of suicide edited by Seymour Perlin, pg. 67
              [5] Conclusions are based on the stories of Ethan Frome,
Romeo and Juliet and The Sorrows of Young Werther
[6] Information is taken from Ancient history books
[7]  From:
   contact://mentalhealth.about.com/library/sci/1001/blpanicsuicide1001.php?iam=sa
vvy&terms=%2Bsuicide+%2Bfactors
              Study by Ohio University
[8]
   contact://mentalhealth.about.com/library/sci/1001/blpanicsuicide1001.php?iam=sa
vvy&terms=%2Bsuicide+%2Bfactors
[9] www.religioustolerance.org
[10] www.religioustolerance.org