Suicide spike linked to recession
The effects of the most recent economic recession are still being felt as people rebuild their retirement portfolios and look for a well-paying job. But a recent study shows that the most sobering statistic from the recession years is the jump in middle-age suicides.
The study, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University, was recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It found that of all completed suicides among U.S. adults ages 40-64 in 2010, financial, job, or legal problems played a key role in 37.5 percent. The figure increased from just under 33 percent in 2005.
Researchers found that suicide rates for those in this age group have risen 40 percent since 1999, with a noticeable spike between 2007 and 2010, the worst years of this country’s recent recession. While most of the deaths are attributable to existing mental health issues, the study found an association between financial pressures in tough economic times and suicide rates.
“Earlier studies noted a correlation between economic conditions and suicide,” said study author Katherine Hempstead in a news release. “But this study used a unique data set that provides detailed information about circumstances surrounding individual suicides. We can see that there is an increasing share of suicides among middle-aged people where financial or economic distress is cited as a contributing factor.”
The study noted that evidence suggests the middle-aged had more of a struggle during the recession, citing that while one in five younger workers experienced salary reductions, that number rose to one in four for workers aged 50-64.
“Middle-agers often feel financial pressure related to caring for their own family,” says Dr. Kevin Krippner, a licensed clinical psychologist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Money is needed for today’s expenses as well as planning for the future, such as college tuition for children and retirement. Financial pressures can cause emotional distress and pain.”
“Human resource departments, employee assistance programs, state and local employment agencies, credit counselors, and others who interact with those in financial distress should improve their ability to recognize people at risk and make referrals,” according to the authors.
They add that access to crisis counseling and other mental health services on an emergency basis, often provided at times of natural disaster, should also be considered for economic crises.
“Persons who are thinking about suicide are in some type of physical or emotional pain and may be unable to see ways to reduce that pain except for suicide,” says Dr. Krippner. “If you know someone who may be thinking about suicide, certainly the best response is to be direct and ask if they are thinking about suicide. If say they are, try to get them professional help immediately.”
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