I’d like to take a close look in evaluating Durkheim’s theory of suicide. With almost one million people dying from suicide every year, which is the equivalent to a mortality rate of one death every forty seconds, suicide is a serious global issue that needs to be evaluated and understood more further in-depth why so many individuals are killing each other. Within the last 45 years suicide has increased by over sixty percent, and has become one of the top three causes of death for individuals within the age range of 15-44. With statistics like this, there’s no wonder why Durkheim decided to study suicide and find out more in-depth information about why so many people kill themselves each year.
Throughout the nineteenth century, three major variables were considered for determining why people committed suicide which included geography, biology, and the social kind. While Emile Durkheim studied geographical and biological factors, he later rejected both and focused solely on factors of the social kind. Furthermore he would two key conditions that are chronic in modern day society and can lead to two different types of suicide known as anomie suicide and egoistic suicide. The first, anomie suicide stems from a lack of moral regulation. These are individuals that have difficulty understanding and internalizing social norms. These people are usually known as, “normlessness,” and lack the basic social norms as they were most likely never learned. The lack of social norms could lead to what is known as anomie suicide. The next type is called egoistic suicide which is a lack of social integration of the individual into the social group. This is an extremely unfortunate version of a reason to commit suicide as a person can not integrate themselves with the rest of society, simply because they may be different or unique.
So what exactly did Durkheim’s theory of suicide find? Interestingly enough Durkheim found that individuals from predominately Catholic countries have lower suicide rates opposed to individuals from predominately Protestant countries. Furthermore, it’s important to note that both religions prohibit suicide with equal stringency, making it necessary to look for differences within the social organizations of the churches. While the Protestant religion is founded upon the promotion of a spirit and free inquiry however, the Catholic Church is founded upon the traditional hierarchy of the priesthood, whose authority is bounded with religious dogma opposed to the Protestant religion being alone before God.
Durkheim also found that unmarked individuals show higher rates of suicide than married persons of a comparable age. Furthermore he found that there is an inverse relationship between the suicide and the size of the family. For example, the more amount of children a family may have, the lower the rate of suicide will be. Durkheim also found that suicide also declines in a time of war, or national distress. He accredits this to that in a time of war political crisis stimulates involvement in events for a period of time, brining together a closer and more integrated society.
I found it interesting to note that Durkheim also found that individuals involved in a line of commerce and industry for work reported higher suicide rates than those in the field of agricultural work. Durkheim also notes that within non-agricultural occupations, suicide rates are inversely related to socio-economic level. Furthermore it’s ironic and fundamental to note that suicide rates are the highest among the well-to-do and liberal professions opposed to a lower suicide rate for those who are chronically poor? So that saying, “Money doesn’t buy happiness,” should be changed to, “Money doesn’t buy a longer life.”
Soc 331 M/W