Study shows Great Recession to blame for increase in suicide rates

A new study published February 27 in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reveals some hard data regarding the increase in suicide rates among middle-aged adults over the last few years.

Adults between 40-64 years of age showed an increase in suicide from 15.5 percent per 1000,000 people to 18.2 percent per 100,000 people. The findings say that the financial crisis may have been to blame with these suicide rates peaking between 2007 and 2008 at the height of the economic recession. The suicide reason listed most often for middle-aged adults during this time was employment, financial or legal problems, according to the Washington Post.

The data collected between 2005 and 2010 looked at the circumstances involved with suicides. The authors of this new research analyzed information from the National Violent Death Reporting System, a detailed database maintained by the CDC. It compiles information from medical examiners, toxicology reports, death certificates and other sources to provide a detailed picture of the circumstances surrounding violent deaths.

Job and financial problems, not mental health, were of the main focus. The proportion of suicides linked to external factors such as employment, financial and/or economic problems increased from about 33 percent in 2005 to 37.5 percent in 2010 for this age bracket. Suicide rates have increased 40 percent overall between 1999 and 2010 for this age group, while rates leveled off for other age groups.

The manner of suicide was also the microscope during this study. Suicide by suffocation — a method more likely to be linked to financial or legal troubles — increased 59.5 percent among middle-age adults between 2005 and 2010. That is about three times the rate of increase for suffocation among people ages 15-19. Suffocation as a means of suicide rose across all age groups, which the researchers say could be tied to a decline in gun ownership.

What proactive message is this study giving us to run with? There should be a much higher consideration given to mental health needs in relation to difficult financial times. An increase in access to crisis counseling and other mental health services on an emergency basis should be given as freely as it is during times of natural disaster, say researchers.

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