Going to church helps prevent suicides, according to research released Thursday.
Psychiatric researchers at the University of Manitoba have established a link, they say, "between a person´s attendance at a religious worship service" and the desire to commit suicide.
"The main finding of this study is that religious worship attendance is associated with a decreased risk of suicide attempts," said Daniel Rasic, who led the research.
The findings were based on health surveys of 37,000 Canadians which included information about their spirituality - and specifically - their church attendance.
It is the first study to use national data to look at the relationship between spirituality, worship and suicidal behavior in the general population, and in people with a history of a mental disorder. The data revealed that people who don't attend church or synagogue were twice as likely to have attempted suicide.
The study also distinguished between people who call themselves "spiritual" and those who were churchgoers.
"Among people with a history of mental illness - those at the highest risk of suicide - religious attendance appears associated with a decrease in suicide attempts," Mr. Rasic said. "But simply being 'spiritual' was not significant enough to reduce the effect."
About 33,000 Americans take their own life each year, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Could the typical churchgoer be more at risk for suicide? A recent study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the overall increase in the U.S. suicide rate between 1999-2005 was due "primarily to an increase in suicides among whites aged 40-64 - with white middle-aged women experiencing the largest annual increase."
Meanwhile, Mr. Rasic cautioned that his study did not examine reasons why churchgoing decreased suicide attempts.
The research was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.