Moral Intuitions and Suicide Risk: Results from a National Sample of Icelandic Youth

Eric Silver, Jasmine R. Silver, Inga Dora Sigfusdottir

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Combining insights from Moral Foundations Theory and the Durkheimian tradition, we examine the effects of moral intuitions on suicide risk. We argue that moral intuitions constitute a moral-regulative force that individuals bring with them into a range of socially structured settings and that influence their behavior independent of the structural forces in play in those settings. Focusing on Iceland, an economically advanced country with a largely secular and individualistic culture, and using data from a national sample of youth between the ages of 16 and 21 (N = 10,710), we find that group-oriented (binding) moral intuitions are associated with lower suicide risk while individual-oriented (individualizing) moral intuitions are associated with higher suicide risk. We also find an unexpected (non-linear) protective effect among respondents with strong individualizing moral intuitions, and some evidence that the effects of individualizing moral intuitions on suicide risk are conditioned by involvement in socially integrative relationships. Overall, our results suggest that the sociological study of suicide would be meaningfully improved by incorporating moral intuitions into the model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1799-1826
Number of pages28
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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