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Emile Durkheim: Society, Integration Level & Suicide Study

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bethany Johnson
In this lesson, we will focus on the research conducted by Emile Durkheim regarding the rate of suicide and social factors that may contribute to suicide.

Emile Durkheim's Research on Suicide

The World Health Organization estimates that one million people commit suicide every year.
Suicide Rates

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated one million individuals commit suicide every year. Over 100 years ago, sociologist Emile Durkheim researched the rate of suicide within his own country of France, as well as England and Denmark. In his research, Durkheim stated that while suicide was a solitary act, the causes had significant links to various social factors.

Durkheim's Explanation of Suicide Using Social Context

When Emile Durkheim researched the rates of suicide in various countries in 1869, he was not concerned so much with the personality traits of the individuals who committed such an act, but was looking more at the rate of suicide per country. He wanted to find common social links in the differing countries that would influence a higher or lower rate of suicide. Basically, he wanted to study each country's beliefs, values, norms, and traditions to see if these social factors influenced the rate of suicide.

When looking at the rate of suicide in the three countries, Durkheim looked at the number of suicides per million inhabitants. He found that England had 67 suicides per million, France had 135 and Denmark had 277 per million.

His question then was, 'Why did Denmark have such a comparatively high rate of reported suicide?' To answer this question, Durkheim looked at, not the beliefs of why someone commits suicide, but at the social factors that may influence a person to commit suicide. He focused on the level of:

  1. Cohesiveness within a society
  2. A person's standing within the society
  3. A person's standing within the religious, social and occupational groups of the society

Durkheim found that while the act of committing suicide is an individual act, it is directly connected to the group and social life of the individual.

Categories of People and Rates of Suicide

A person with high levels of integration is less likely to commit suicide.
Integration

Here are some of Durkheim's findings and current research on suicide:

  1. Integration - The level in which a person feels connected to or accepted by a group or society. A person with high levels of integration feels accepted and loved by the group and will have a low chance of committing suicide. A person with low levels of integration feels unwanted, excluded or rejected by the group and will have a high chance of committing suicide.
  2. Religion - A person without a religious affiliation has a higher suicide rate than those who are active within a religion. Protestants actually have a higher suicide rate than Catholics and Jews, according to Durkheim's study on suicide.
  3. Marriage - Unmarried people have a higher suicide rate than married individuals.
  4. Military - Soldiers have a higher rate of suicide than civilians.
  5. Times of peace and war - There is a higher rate of suicide in times of peace than there is in times of conflict or war.
  6. Economy - There is a higher rate of suicide in times of economic instability and recession than in times of prosperity.
  7. Wealth - Wealthy individuals have a higher rate of suicide than modest or poorer individuals.
  8. Sex - Males have a higher rate than females.
  9. Race - Whites have a higher rate of suicide than African Americans and any other group combined.

Understanding Suicide in Social Context and its Predictive Powers

Wealthy people are more likely to commit suicide than are people with modest or low incomes.
Wealth and Suicide

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