Social isolation may increase suicide risk in women

New York : Women who are married, have a large social network and participate in social or religious events are less likely to take their own lives as compared to those who are socially isolated, says a new study.

Women who are socially well integrated have a lower risk for suicide, the findings showed.

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“Interventions aimed at strengthening existing social network structures, or creating new ones, may be valuable programmatic tools in the primary prevention of suicide,” the study noted.

Alexander Tsai from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston in the US, and coauthors estimated the association between social integration and suicide using data from 72,607 nurses (ages 46 to 71 years) who were surveyed about their social relationships beginning in 1992 and followed up until death or until June 2010.

The extent of social integration was measured on an index of seven items that included questions about marital status, social network size, frequency of contact with social ties, and participation in religious or other social groups.

Overall, there were 43 suicides from 1992 to 2010 and the most frequent means of suicide were poisoning by solid or liquid substances (21 suicides), followed by firearms and explosives (eight suicides) and strangulation and suffocation (six suicides).

The authors found that the risk of suicide was lowest among women in the highest and second-highest categories of social integration.

Increasing or consistently high levels of social integration also were associated with a lower risk for suicide.

The findings appeared online in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.