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Immigrant Suicide Rates as a Function of Ethnophaulisms: Hate Speech Predicts Death

Mullen, Brian PhD; Smyth, Joshua M. PhD

Original Articles

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether suicide rates among ethnic immigrant groups were predicted by the ethnophaulisms, or the hate speech, used to refer to those ethnic immigrant groups.

Methods: Data were obtained for 10 European ethnic immigrant groups during the 1950s. These 10 European ethnic immigrant groups accounted for approximately 40% of all immigration into the United States during this time period. Both the suicide rates for these ethnic immigrant groups in the United States and suicide rates for those ethnic immigrant groups in their countries of origin were derived. The complexity and valence of ethnophaulisms used to refer to these ethnic immigrant groups were derived from the historical record of hate speech in the United States.

Results: Consistent with previous research, immigrant suicide rates were strongly correlated with origin suicide rates. As expected, the suicide rates for ethnic immigrant groups in the United States were significantly predicted by the negativity of the ethnophaulisms used to refer to those ethnic immigrant groups. This pattern was obtained even after taking into account the suicide rates for those ethnic immigrant groups in their countries of origin, and even after taking into account the size of those ethnic immigrant groups.

Conclusions: This study found support for the expectation that suicide rates among ethnic immigrant groups would be predicted by the hate speech directed toward those ethnic immigrant groups.

From the Department of Psychology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Brian Mullen, Department of Psychology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13210. E-mail: BMullen@psych.syr.edu

Received for publication June 5, 2003; revision received December 7, 2003.

Copyright © 2004 by American Psychosomatic Society
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