Suicide rate increased during the Great Recession

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Good afternoon:

According to a study published on-line yesterday in the British Journal of Psychiatry, North America and Europe together experienced roughly 10,000 more suicides during the severe [financial] downturn than the trend from earlier years predicted.

While the report shows a correlation between economic turmoil and increased suicide rates, it can’t prove a causal relationship, the researchers note. It can’t prove that the people who lost their jobs or the homes were the ones who committed suicide. But the differing trends in the suicide rates of different countries deserve a closer look, says Aaron Reeves, a sociologist at the University of Oxford, who led the research.

“The first thing we need to do is try and understand what exactly is driving this rise,” Reeves says.

He proposes more research into the causes of suicide.

I think he is on to something. Mere coincidence seems unlikely.

What do you think?

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5 Responses to Suicide rate increased during the Great Recession

  1. volgaknight says:

    Please understand this is not meant to be disrespectful, but…..

    Millions of people, having spent their lives being good citizens and “playing by the book,” then, through no fault of their own, lose their jobs, homes, futures, and dignities, then watch as the respective governments rush to bankrupt their treasuries bailing out the perpetrators of these economic calamities, and, we are asked, [to] “..try and understand what exactly is driving this rise [of suicides] ?”

    Really? What am I missing here? Isn’t the anecdotal evidence staring us in the face adequate to answer that question?

    • What you are missing is that we lack information about the people who committed suicide and why they did it.

      The authors pointed out that weakness in the study and called for more research so that future increases and decreases in the suicide rate can be linked to specific causes or circumstances.

      Otherwise, we are just guessing and that’s not good science.

      Having said that, I would be shocked to discover that the additional stress of the financial collapse did not contribute significantly to the increase in suicides.

      We just don’t know that for certain.

    • Malisha says:

      I guess part of the difficulty in understanding it is that the data do not show that it was the individuals who lost their jobs, homes, etc. who committed suicide. Often the picture is more complex than it seems. I would think that one of the issues that could be involved is simply the general increase in worrying that accompanies a recession. Memory is what the brain scientists call “state dependent.” When people feel upset, anxious and/or depressed, they tend to remember other things that came from their past at times when they felt upset, anxious and/or depressed. Therefore the feelings enhance themselves. It’s like going to a wedding and remembering other weddings you have been at, or hearing “that song” and remembering what was going on last time it played.

      So perhaps although the individuals who actually committed suicide were not those who really HAD huge, desperately bad negative consequences from the recession, the general malaise and panic in their environment would help induce memories they found unbearable.

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