Study Shows Global Rise in Suicide Linked to Economic Recession

A new international study published in the British Medical Journal has discovered a link between the 2008 global financial crisis and a rise in suicide rates in both the U.S. and Europe. The study found that in 2009, a 37 percent increase in unemployment was accompanied by nearly 5,000 more suicides than had been projected for the year.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the universities of Oxford, Bristol, and Hong Kong, was based on data from the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the International Monetary Fund. The study also looked at 54 different countries in Europe and North and South America.

The study found that there were 8.8 percent more suicides in the U.S. and Canada that had been projected, and 13.3 percent more in the 27 European Union countries. The increase specifically impacted men. In European countries, researchers found that the suicide rate among men was 4.2 percent higher than expected and 6.4 percent higher in the 18 American countries. The rate remained normal for European women, but in the Americas the increase was 2.3 percent, which was notably smaller than that of men.

Those found to be most at risk of suicide were European men between the ages of 15 and 24. In this age group the suicide rate rose 11.7 percent. This group was followed by American men aged 45 to 64, who saw a 5.2 percent increase.

An increase in suicide has long been associated with tough economic times, and this study confirmed the association.

The study found that a rising suicide rate among men was associated with a rise in the unemployment rate, especially in countries where unemployment had been low before the financial crisis.

The study's authors, however, caution that their findings are just a small part of a larger picture, and note:

“The rise in the number of suicides is only a small part of the emotional distress caused by the economic downturn. Non-fatal suicide attempts could be 40 times more common than completed suicides, and for every suicide attempt about 10 people experience suicidal thought.”