‘Economic Crisis’ Ups Suicide in Middle-Age Adults

‘Economic Crisis’ Ups Suicide in Middle-Age Adults‘Economic Crisis’ Ups Suicide in Middle-Age Adults

Among American adults aged 40-64, suicide rates have risen by 40% since 1999. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says this increase could be due to the recession of 2007-09 - a period that saw a sharp rise in suicide rates among middle-aged adults.

The study was conducted by Katherine A. Hempstead, PhD, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, NJ, and the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, and Julie A. Phillips, PhD, of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research in New Brunswick, NJ.

This research comes after another study recently published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that between 2000 and 2011, unemployment was a cause of around 45,000 suicides around the world each year, reports

Using data from the World Health Organization (WHO) mortality database, the investigators of that study calculated the recession was responsible for an additional 5,000 suicides from 2008.

For this latest study, Hempstead and Phillips set out to determine whether recession affected middle-aged adults disproportionately, resulting in higher suicide rates among this age group, while such rates among other age groups remained relatively stable.

The researchers assessed data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), which provided information on completed suicides between 2005 and 2010. “The data allows the analysis of how suicide circumstances may have changed in ways that reflect the growing importance of economic crises as a risk factor for suicide,” the team explains.


Using this information, the researchers analyzed 17 separate suicide circumstances, which they categorized into three groups: personal circumstances (such as alcohol dependence or mental health problems), interpersonal circumstances (such as the death of a loved one or intimate partner violence) and external circumstances (such as problems with work or financial difficulties).

Broken down by age group, the team found that individuals aged 40-64 saw a significant increase in suicides due to external circumstances, rising from 33% in 2005 to 37.5% in 2010, with a sharp increase from 2007 - around the time the economic downturn began.

“By contrast,” the authors note, “the relative prevalence of suicides owing to personal and interpersonal circumstances remained stable or declined over the period.”

The team says the increase in suicides resulting from external circumstances in those aged 65 and over may be explained by financial difficulties linked to the loss of retirement savings due to the stock market crash.