RealClearPolitics.com featured an article this morning called “God, Guns, and Suicide” by Sean Trende, RCP’s senior elections analyst. He provides some math to the people, breaking down some regression analyses performed by Nate Cohn at The New Republic. He rightly points out that measuring variables isn’t comparing “alike things” if there are too many variables — you’re going to need better math (or multivariate regressions, either way). This reminds him very much of all the talk about relationships between guns, religion and suicide rates.
In other words, in a hypothetical state with no guns and no religion, we’d expect a suicide rate of 17 (per 100,000), give or take a few points. In a state where everyone had guns, and no one practiced religion, we’d expect a suicide rate of 39. If everyone were religious, but no guns: 11. Everyone religious, everyone owns a gun: 21. From a political perspective, there’s really something for both the left and right to like here.
When you add divorces per 1,000 men, it is still significantly related to suicide rates in a state, and population density is even less related.
It’s the use of the word “everyone” that I think tripped me up. Because if you compare women to men, all of these figures would look vastly different.
Gallup polls have been used by both conservative and liberal publications lately to indicate both that the rate of gun ownership among women is growing, and that it remains very low. The answer to that is, Yes. While in 2005, only 13 percent of all women in the United States owned a gun, according to a Gallup poll, that number spiked to 23 percent in 2011. However, as a February 1, 2013 news release from Gallup also said, men are three times more likely than women to own guns — a huge gender discrepancy.
If you look at suicide, the rates are vastly different as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2013 report on suicide rates in the Unites States, The suicide rate for men aged 35-64 increased 27.3 percent to 27.3, and the rate for women increased 31.5 percent, from 6.2 to 8.1. This isn’t because more men own guns — the rate for death by suffocation increased the most, along with women’s rates. The fact that more men own guns may simply indicate why they are more likely to succeed if they are intent on ending their life.
And in terms of religion, as Psychology Today’s Satoshi Kanazawa writes, “Women in virtually every society and culture are more religious than men, and the empirical evidence suggests that the reason is not gender socialization.”
What’s startling is the underlying impetus behind articles such as these. The authors attempt to draw correlations between death and those who live a certain way — presumably a different way than the author. This trend towards generalized thinking (“EVERYONE does this.” “You ALWAYS do that.”) is what we practice when we’re angry, not when we’re reasonable.
It seems entirely possible that the underlying thread of these seemingly random categories is the idea of relationships — whether it’s relationships to God, or those poor divorced men’s children, or simply the group of gals you grab coffee with — you’re developing ropes to anchor you back to reality and hope for betterment.
That transcends political groups and categories, thanks.