Americans say suicide is ‘epidemic’ but not an automatic ticket to hell: Survey


Most Americans say suicide has become an epidemic but isn’t an automatic ticket to hell, according to a survey by an evangelical research group.

About 77% of respondents said suicide has become an epidemic in the U.S., according to Lifeway Research, which released its results Monday. The figure is up from the 56% who said the same in 2014.

Ten percent of respondents strongly agreed that suicide “automatically” sends a person to hell, while 13% said they “somewhat agreed” with that statement. Those numbers were unchanged from the earlier survey, Lifeway said.

There’s been a slight increase in the percentage of Americans reporting a friend or family member lost to suicide, 39%, up from 36% eight years ago.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in 2020, claiming nearly 46,000 lives. Since 2017, suicide rates have fluctuated slightly, hovering around 14 per 100,000 people. The rate declined to 13.5 per 100,000 in 2020, the most recent year for which complete data were available.

The Lifeway survey did not ask respondents if they believe in hell, but other polls have shown that most Americans believe in it. In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that 58% of adults believe in hell, down from 59% in 2007.

In the Lifeway poll, 13% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement that suicide is selfish and 1 in 4 said they “somewhat” agreed with the statement.

Men were more likely than women to say suicide is selfish (43% vs. 33%) and were more likely to say it leads to hell (27% vs. 19%). Blacks and Hispanics, at 31% each, were among those most likely to say suicide victims “automatically” go to hell.

Religiously unaffiliated people were most likely to disagree with the assertions about selfishness and going to hell, at 64% in each category. Among Christians who attend worship services less than once a month, 36% said suicide is selfish and 57% disagreed with the hell-bound assertion.

“For most, hell and selfishness are not the first things to come to mind when they think about suicide. Those less connected with Christian belief and practice are even less likely to see a selfish component to ending one’s life prematurely,” Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a statement. “Americans are twice as likely to see suicide as an epidemic to be stopped than a sin they can judge.”

Lifeway said it surveyed 1,005 people in September 2021 but only released the results now. The group said the sampling error from the online panel does not exceed plus or minus 3.3 percentage points at a 95% level of confidence.

The full survey is online at

NOTE: If you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline ( by calling or texting 988.


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