The Reproductive Demography of Suicide

Maximilian Stiefel , University of California, Santa Barbara

Suicide is one of the most traumatic and least scientifically understood mortality outcomes from population, behavioral, and biological perspectives. Rates of suicide in the U.S. are on a pernicious rise within some demographic groups. The reproductive demography of suicide has received almost no attention. We first compare fertility histories (quantity, life course timing, and spacing of offspring) for the suicide afflicted and high-risk populations against the general population. Second, we are reciprocally interested in how fertility histories influence suicide likelihoods. The population with children may exhibit increased time to and/or decreased occurrence of suicide. Having children at later as opposed to earlier ages could reduce suicide risk, there may be an absolute or threshold effect of child quantity on suicide risk, and increased birth spacing may allow mothers to adapt to child rearing and recover more effectively from postpartum depression if they are in the high-risk group. We hypothesize that 1) suicide afflicted and high-risk individuals exhibit lower marriage rates, higher divorce rates, lower lifetime reproductive success, and lower age at first birth, 2) high-risk individuals who have children experience a protective effect and exhibit increased time to and decreased occurrence of suicide, 3) birth interval length negatively correlates with suicide risk, and 4) not all child quantities are the same--low and high quantities increase suicide risk. We test these hypotheses using post-World War II records from the Utah Population Database, one of the world's richest sources of linked population­-based information for demographic, genetic, and epidemiological studies.

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course