Economic recessions have had huge impact on mental health. 1920s economic depression was associated with an increase in suicide, particularly among men. Asian crisis in late 1990 s also increased suicide among men. In Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong alone this resulted in over 10 000 excess suicides.
What about more recent crisis?
Shu-Sen Chang and colleagues report the impact of 2008 global financial crisis on suicide rates. 34 million more people became jobless between 2007 and 2009. What is the effect of this on suicide rates?
This is the first systematic investigation into the broader international pattern of recession on suicide rate. Suicide data from 53 countries ( WHO mortality database) were used. This database provides the most comprehensive standardised national mortality statistics for countries around the world.Data for unemployment and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita from extracted from the International Monetary Fund’s world economic outlook database.
There was a 37% rise in unemployment and 3% falls in GDP per capita in 2009.Unemployment rates started rising in North American countries in 2008 (23%), followed by dramatic increases in 2009-10 (94% and 101%). Within Europe all three groups of countries experienced rises in unemployment in 2009 (of between 17% and 35%) and 2010 (25% to 36%).
Overall suicide rate in men rose 3.3% , with an excess of 5124 (4219 to 6029) suicides . No increase was seen among women. European men aged 15-24 had the greatest increases in suicide rates in all age groups, while in American countries men aged 45-64 showed the greatest increase.
There was evidence for an association between the increases in suicide after the crisis and the increases in unemployment across study countries, particularly in men and in countries where the unemployment level before the crisis (2007) was relatively low.
It is important to remember that non-fatal suicide attempts could be many times (up to 40 times) more common than completed suicides. For every suicide attempt about 10 people would have experienced suicidal thoughts.
Limitations: Countries with a large population—such as China and India—were not included because of unavailability of data.
Conclusion: Economic circumstances have huge impact on mental health. During economic crisis, we require more support/ assistance programs to prevent such public health/social tragedies. Government austerity could result in further job losses, posing additional suicide risks.
Summary of the article:
Impact of 2008 global economic crisis on suicide: time trend study in 54 countries:
Shu-Sen Chang, David Stuckler,Paul Yip, David Gunnell : BMJ 2013;347:f5239 doi: 10.1136/bmj.f5239 (Published 17 September 2013)