The Viennese have a macabre fascination with death and funerals. Strolling in Europe’s second largest cemetery is a common pastime and the city even boasts a funeral museum. Ensuring that one is a schöne Leich – a beautiful corpse – when passing is of primary importance to many Viennese.
Although I no longer live in Vienna, the city’s morbidity rubbed off on me. Yesterday I was reading about Émile Durkheim’s classic 1897 study indicating a lower suicide rate among Catholics vs. Protestants. His conclusion that suicide can’t be attributed purely to temperament was groundbreaking.
This got me searching for information about Austria’s suicide rate. Some interesting data:
- Between 1980 and 2005 Austria’s suicide rate dropped significantly (chart).
- In the same period, the percentage of Catholics in the population also declined.
What does this data reveal about the correlation between Catholicism and suicide?
What role does religion play in preventing suicide?