Endogamy and suicide: An observation-based hypothesis.

TitleEndogamy and suicide: An observation-based hypothesis.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsJollant F, Macdonald C
JournalMed Hypotheses
Date Published2015 Nov

Suicide is a complex and multifactorial behavior, which is likely the result of distinct pathways in different individuals or groups. Endogamy has been associated with numerous diseases, including behavioral disorders. Here, we discuss the hypothesis of endogamy as one mechanism facilitating high rates of suicide in some small and isolated groups of people across the world. To support our hypothesis, we describe four geographically and culturally distinct populations (the Aguarunas of Peru, the Vaqueiros of Spain, the Baruyas of New Guinea, and the Palawans of the Philippines), which present the following characteristics: (1) a high level of isolation and endogamy; (2) very high rates of suicide restricted to one group with (3) adjacent groups of similar origin and culture displaying low rates of suicide. Within these four distinct populations, endogamy could act in one isolated group as the amplifier of both selected genetic risk alleles and microcultural values (e.g. suicide as an acceptable solution), beyond cultural and genetic traits shared by the whole population (and therefore found in all groups). Genetic and microcultural risk factors are transmitted through close kinship and imitation/modeling, and could interact to increase the frequency of vulnerable individuals leading, in turn, to heightened rates of suicide. Culture could sometimes additionally act by generating stressful conditions for some individuals (e.g. lower social status and maltreatment). In contrast to endogamy, suicide motives (notably interpersonal conflicts) and mental disorders appear to be universal risk factors. More investigation of this endogamy hypothesis is necessary, which could represent a singular case of gene-culture co-transmission and shed light on particular conditions of suicide genesis.

Alternate JournalMed. Hypotheses
PubMed ID26206761