Degree Name

DrPH (Doctor of Public Health)


Public Health

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Deborah Slawson

Committee Members

Shimin Zheng, Andrea Clements, Stephen Nkansah-Amankra


Suicide is a major public health issue in the United States. Some studies show decreased suicide rates in religious populations, but it is unclear how religiosity might be linked to suicidal behavior of adolescents emerging into adulthood. To this point few studies have examined the relationship between adolescent suicidal ideation and several risk factors at once and the role of religiosity in these relationships.

Drawing from Waves I-III of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health data from 1994 to 2002, I sought to explore the relationship between religiosity (i.e. religious affiliation, service attendance, prayer, perceived importance of religion) and suicidal ideation of adolescents over time. Additionally, associations between risk factors (i.e. poor parental relationship, low self-esteem, depressive symptoms, suicidal behavior of friends and family, drug use, alcohol use, aggressive behavior) and risk of suicidal ideation were assessed by simple logistic regression analyses. Multivariate analyses were then used to examine the relationships among the risk factors and suicidal ideation. In a second step of the multivariate analyses, religiosity was added to the model to test if there would be a change in the odds ratios.

Results of the simple logistic regression indicated adolescents’ religiosity was negatively correlated with suicidal ideation, while the selected risk factors were positively correlated with suicidal ideation among adolescent participants. However, as participants became young adults, one religiosity measure (i.e. prayer) and one aggressive behavior measure (i.e. access to weapons) were no longer significantly related to their suicidal ideation. Also, females and Whites were more likely to report suicidal ideation than males or African Americans, respectively.

In the multivariate models all the selected suicide risk factors were positively correlated with suicidal ideation. When religiosity was added to the model, it had a positive impact on aggressive behavior among older adolescents in Wave II (35% reduced risk) and drug use among younger adolescents in Wave I (14% reduced risk). Religiosity had marginal impact on the rest of the risk factors: 0.1% – 2.4% reduced risk in some and 0.2% – 1.6% increased risk in others in all 3 waves.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.