Spike in suicide rate in Europe and US linked to financial crisis

UK registered 300 deaths above the expected rate in 2009, after start of crisis

Thousands of suicides are linked to the global financial crisis, with particularly high numbers of people killing themselves in countries suffering heavy job losses as austerity bites, an international study has concluded.

The research found there were about 5,000 more self-inflicted deaths in Europe and North America in 2009 – the first year after the banking crash triggered economic turmoil – than would have been expected in normal times.

Britain shared in the distressing trend, suffering 300 extra suicides in 2009, according to a study published last night by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Researchers blamed the spike in suicides on soaring dole queues – an estimated 34 million people worldwide lost their jobs during the crisis – as well as bankruptcies and housing repossessions. According to their analysis of suicide rates in 45 countries in Europe and North America, young men aged between 15 and 24 were particularly vulnerable.

“Men are more likely to be the main earner in the family and thus more affected by the recession than women. They might experience a greater degree of shame in the face of unemployment and are less likely to seek help,” their report said.

They said there was evidence that numbers of self-inflicted deaths increased sharply in countries where unemployment had been relatively low before the credit crunch.

And the researchers, from universities in Bristol, Oxford and Hong Kong, warned they could still be underestimating the extent of the problem as some countries hit hard by the financial crash were excluded from their study.

They added: “The rise in the number of suicides is only a small part of the emotional distress caused by the economic downturn. Non-fatal suicide attempts could be 40 times more common than completed suicides and for every suicide attempt about ten people experience suicidal thoughts.”

The Samaritans said the conclusions chimed with their experience of dealing with suicidal and deeply depressed callers who were increasingly raising problems with redundancy, debt and mortgage repayments.

A spokesman for the organisation said: “It is no surprise to us to be told suicides rise during recessions. A snapshot survey of calls to our branches in 2008, just before the current recession began, showed that one in 10 callers talked  about financial difficulties.

“That had risen to one in six at the end of last year. Clearly this is a factor governments need to keep in mind when planning for economic downturns.”

The Samaritans’ own research suggested that middle-aged men from disadvantaged backgrounds are at highest risk of suicide. They are up to  10 times more likely to kill themselves than men living in Britain’s most affluent areas.

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said research showed economic shocks were “seriously bad for the health”.

He said: “When people face economic hardship, and the stress and uncertainty that comes in its wake, they can react in different ways. Some will take it out on others, getting into fights, assaulting their partners, perpetrating homicides.

“Violence can also be turned inwards, leading to depression, distress and, for some, suicide.

“Whatever the economic arguments in favour of austerity, the rise in suicide rates is one of the clearest signs of its human cost,” Mr Garside added.

Official figures show that 4,331 people committed suicide in Britain in 2008 – a sharp rise of 246 on the previous year and a reversal of the general trend over the previous decade – and 4,304 in 2009. The rate fell to 4,231 in 2010, but climbed again to 4,552 in 2011.

The findings echo documented increases in suicide in previous downturns, such as the Great Depression in the 1930s and the Asian economic crisis in the late 1990s.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

    Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

    £96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

    £32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste