Suicide rates tend to rise in a bad economy and decline in periods of economic expansion, new research shows.
From the Great Depression to the double-dip recession of the 1980s, suicide rates have shown a spike in economic downturns, according to a study the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week. And early data suggest that’s likely to be the case in the most recent economic shock as well.
In 11 of the 13 recessions that occurred between 1928 and 2007, the rate of suicides ticked up, according to the study. Meanwhile, as the economy improved, the suicide rate usually dropped, falling in 10 of the 13 expansions.
The largest jump in the suicide rate took place during the Great Depression, when it soared to an all-time high of 22.1 suicides per 100,000 individuals. That was a 22.8% increase in 1932 from 1928.
“Economic problems can impact how people feel about themselves and their futures as well as their relationships with family and friends. Economic downturns can also disrupt entire communities,” Feijun Luo, the study’s lead author, said in a release. “We know suicide is not caused by any one factor – it is often a combination of many that lead to suicide.”
Relatively few studies have been conducted to show the link between economic downturns and suicide, and the CDC’s study is the first to study how suicide rates varied among age groups. It found that recessions had the greatest impact on suicide rates among working-age individuals, those 25 to 64-years-old.
“This may be partly explained by the fact that many of those people were breadwinners in their homes…Therefore, job loss may cause more hardships to those people than to others,” the report states.
Suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in 2007, the latest government tally available. Some 34,598 committed suicide in 2007, up 3.7% from a year earlier.
Still, suicide accounts for a relatively small share of deaths in the U.S. — 1.4% in 2007. Heart disease and cancer are among the most common causes, making up nearly half of all deaths in 2007.