Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Suicide has been studied sociologically since the late 19th century when theorists like Durkheim ([1897] 1951) found that the spatial patterning of suicides was not random. Looking beyond psychological troubles, suicide studies began to address the social factors that affected suicide rates. Building on the work of early scholars, contemporary studies mainly focus on variations in levels of social integration variables within communities to explain the nature of suicide rates. Many of these contemporary studies, however, only consider one type of social integration, like religion, and how variations in participation affect the suicide rate. To date, no study simultaneously considers multiple indicators of social integration nor focuses on the contextual environment these social integration variables create within communities in order to decipher if/where spatial regimes exist with regard to suicide in the United States. The aim of this study was to use spatial patterning techniques to determine the extent to which religious organizations, civic community organizations, social isolation, and economic deprivation affected the social integration and infrastructure of communities thereby affecting the spatial patterning of suicide rates within the United States. Drawing from the civic community and social capital perspectives, communities with greater levels of integration have been found to have better health outcomes and lower levels of mortality than communities with low levels of integration (Lee 2010). Inversely, communities with higher levels of social isolation and economic deprivation have a weak community infrastructure, less social integration, low social capital, and low levels of civic engagement as evidenced by weak social networks, fewer civic institutions, and a sub-par public health infrastructure (Blanchard, Bartkowski, Matthews, and Kerley 2008; Lee 2010; Young and Lyson 2001). Therefore, the presence or absence of integration factors shape the community environment, which in turn impacts the suicide rate of that community. Specifically, the present study aimed to test the hypothesis that civically engaged communities, with low isolation and low economic troubles, produced a community environment that resulted in lower suicide rates, while communities that had high levels of social isolation and economic deprivation had lower chances for civic engagement and therefore suffered from higher suicide rates. Results showed, however, that each of these integration variables had a varying impact on the suicide rate in different regions, which led to the conclusion that spatial regimes exist in the United States.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Lee, Matthew R.



Included in

Sociology Commons