From Our 2011 Archives
Suicides Go Up When Economy Goes Down
Since the Great Depression, Hard Economic Times Have Driven Up Suicide Rates, Study Finds
By Bill Hendrick
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
April 14, 2011 -- The suicide rate in the United States rises when the economy slumps, and falls when economic times improve. And this has been the case at least since the Great Depression, which started with the stock market crash of 1929, the CDC says in a new study.
"Knowing suicides increased during economic recessions and fell during expansions underscores the need for additional suicide prevention measures when the economy weakens," James Mercy, PhD, of the CDC's Injury Center's Division of Violence Prevention, says in a news release. "It is an important finding for policymakers and those working to prevent suicide."
In economic recessions, companies cut back their workforces, leaving many people jobless. Unemployment often is associated with stressful situations such as financial and relationship problems that may increase suicide risk. When economic conditions improve on the other side of normal business cycles, called expansions, companies add workers and unemployment rates fall.
Business Cycles Have Ups and Downs
In the CDC study, the strongest association between economic recessions and suicides occurred in people between 25 and 64, which is considered the prime period of employment.
The study finds that:
Business Cycles Influence How People Feel
"Economic problems can impact how people feel about themselves and their futures as well as their relationships with family and friends," Feijun Luo, PhD, a CDC economist and the study's author, says in a news release. "We know suicide is not caused by any one factor -- it is often a combination of many that lead to suicide. But there are many opportunities for prevention."
He says prevention strategies should focus on individuals, families, neighborhoods, and entire communities in order to reduce risk factors.
The CDC report suggests strategies to reduce or prevent suicides during hard times:
Luo says in the article that suicide ranked as the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2007 and was responsible for 34,598 deaths.
She writes that suicide is not only influenced by economic conditions, but also medical, psychological, social, and cultural factors.
SOURCES: News release, CDC.Luo, F. American Journal of Public Health, April 2011.
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