What is the role of economic instability and status in the development of suicidal behaviors?

Updated: Aug 29, 2019
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Times of economic change, especially economic depressions, have also been associated with suicides. The start of the Great Depression in the United States was accompanied by a number of suicides.

Job loss has long been associated with increased suicidal ideation and behavior. Emile Durkheim demonstrated a correlation between times of economic decline and employment decreases and a rise in completed suicides. However, there has always been the companion assumption that these suicides occurred mostly among the adult population.

Gassman-Pines and colleagues have shown that youth suicidal activities are also exacerbated by job loss. They looked at 1997 to 2009 data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to estimate the effects of statewide job loss on adolescents' suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide plans. They found job losses among 1% of a state's working-age population increased the probability of adolescent girls and Blacks reporting suicide-related behaviors by 2 to 3 percentage points. Job losses did not affect the suicide-related behaviors of boys, non-Hispanic Whites, or Hispanics. They concluded that adolescents, like adults, are affected by economic downturns. [70]

Durkheim noted that in times of major societal alternations, when the rules are in flux and people do not know what is expected of them, the self-destructive rate increases. He had observed that not only did the suicide rate increase with a rise in unemployment but also that a soaring economy led to heightened suicide activity. He termed this period of major cultural changes anomie.

Poverty and low income, with concomitantly fewer options and opportunities, also correlate with suicide. [12]

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