Lecture 1: Sociology & Suicide
Exam – FINAL NOT CUMULATIVE
a) Matching 20
b) 40 multiple choice
2. Readings (text)
a) 40 multiple choice for the midterm
a. 28 from compass
b. 12 from mapping
1. INTRODUCTION: SOCIAL FORCES & SUICIDE
(a) THREE LEVELS OF SOCIOLOGICAL ANALYSIS
2. SOCIAL INTEGRATION & SUICIDE
(a) SOCIAL INTEGRATION DEFINED
3. EGOISTIC SUICIDE
• (a) MODERN INDIVIDUALISM
• (b) SOCIAL TYPE & EGOISTIC SUICIDE
4. ANOMIC SUICIDE
(a) RAPID & PROFOUND SOCIAL CHANGE
(b) ABORIGINAL SUICIDE
5. ALTRUISTIC SUICIDE
(a) SHAME SOCIETIES
(b) WARRIOR ALTRUISTIC SUICIDE
(c) MODERN JAPAN & ALTRUISTIC SUICIDE
6. CAREERS IN SOCIOLOGY
• Families, friendship circles, and work associations are all examples of microstructures.
• Macrostructures include classes, bureaucracies, and power systems (e.g., patriarchy).
• Global structures include international organizations, patterns of worldwide travel and communication, and the
economic relations between countries.
- Social structure: Relatively stable patterns of social relations that affect our thoughts, feelings, actions, and
- Are three levels of social structure:
a. Microstructures (patterns of intimate social relations formed during face-to-face interaction)
b. Macrostructures (patterns of social relations outside and above one’s circle of intimates and
c. Global structures (patterns of social relations outside and above the national level)
The Sociological Perspective
- Sociological perspective illustrated through considering causes of suicide
- Suicide often regarded as a supremely antisocial and non-social act
- Yet there are hidden social causes of suicide
• Suicide is considered supremely antisocial and non-social act for three main reasons:
1. It is condemned by nearly everyone in society.
2. It typically is committed in private, far from the public’s intrusive glare.
3. It is comparatively rare (in 2004, there were about 11 suicides for every 100 000 people in Canada).
Sociological Explanation of Suicide: Durkheim’s Contribution
- Émile Durkheim At end of 19 century, demonstrated suicide rates were strongly influenced by social forces Examined association between rates of suicide and rates of psychological disorder for different groups
Found suicide rates and rates of psychological disorder did not vary directly, and often appeared to vary
- Durkheim analyzed European government statistics and hospital records.
- Durkheim argued suicide rates varied as result of differences in degree of social solidarity in different categories
of the population
- Social solidarity refers to:
o the degree to which group members share beliefs and values; and
o the intensity and frequency of their interaction
• To support his argument, Durkheim showed the following:
i. Married adults are half as likely as unmarried adults are to commit suicide (because marriage creates social ties
and a kind of moral cement that bind the individual to society).
ii. Women are less likely to commit suicide than men ( because women are more involved in the intimate social
relations of family life).
iii. Jews are less likely to commit suicide than Christians (because centuries of persecution have turned Jews into a
group that is more defensive and tightly knit).
iv. The elderly are more prone than both the young and the middle-aged to take their own lives in the face of
misfortune (because the elderly are most likely to live alone, to have lost a spouse or partner, and to lack a job
and a wide network of friends).
Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide
• FIGURE 1.2 on p. 6 - Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide
• Durkheim called suicide in high solidarity settings altruistic: Soldiers who knowingly giving up their lives to
protect comrades commit altruistic suicide.
• Suicide in low-solidarity settings is egoistic or anomic: Egoistic suicide results from the poor integration of people
into society because of weak social ties to others. Someone who is unemployed is more likely to commit suicide
than someone who is employed because the unemployed person has weaker social ties.
o low levels of social solidarity/integration --> suicide rates go up
• Anomic suicide occurs when vague norms govern behaviour: The rate of anomic suicide is likely to be high
among people living in a society lacking a widely shared code of morality.
o caused by weak regulation
o Norms/beliefs/rules lose their effectiveness in some societies
o Rapid social change is one of the reasons for this – typical of the modern world
o Normlessness – social norms lose their effectiveness
o Durkheim’s point – we need regulation to be healthy – when we lack that regulation, Merton says that
Anomie: “nice guys finish last”
The means – goals – dysjunction
Means Hiatus (ends)
(“be good”) (rewards) Norm
A good education gets a good job
Means Reward ends
Suicide Rate by Age and Sex, Canada, 2004
• FIGURE 1.3 on p. 7 - Suicide Rates by Age and Sex, Canada, 2004 Sources: Statistics Canada, 2008, CANSIM, Table
102-0540. “Deaths by Cause, Chapter XX: External Causes of Morbidity and Mortality (V01 to Y89), Age, Group
and Sex, Canada, Annual (Number) (44814 series)”
• Retrieved January 3, 2008 (htpp://www.statcan.ca/English/Freepub/84F0209XIE/2003000/Related.htm ;
Estimates of Population (2001 Census and Administrative Data), by Age Group and Sex, Canada, Provinces and
Territories, Health Regions (June 2005 Boundaries) and Peer Groups, Annually (Number).”
• Retrieved January 3, 2008 (http://dc1.chass.utoronto.ca.myaccess.library.utnoronto.ca/cgi-bin/cansimdim).
Suicide Rates, Selected Countries, circa 2004
• FIGURE 1.1 on p. 5 - Suicide Rates, Selected Countries, cir