An economic recession like the one the United States has recently experienced can cause immense financial and emotional strain on citizens. Job loss, in particular, is a uniquely stressful event that can create feelings of loss of control, worry, and fear. For people with a risk for negative mental health outcomes, an economic recession may be an especially vulnerable time.
Some statistics suggest that mental health problems and even suicides increase during a recession. However, according to a recent study led by Anthony M. Garcy of the Center for Health Equity Studies at Stockholm University/Karolinska Institute in Sweden, more people take their own lives in the period after a recession than during one. Garcy discovered this finding after a thorough examination of national data from Sweden that included unemployment, health, and mortality records from over 3,400,000 Swedish citizens during a recession and in the following years.
He found that although job loss was high, suicide rates did not increase dramatically as a result during the recession period. However, for men especially, the postrecession period suicide rates were higher than during the recession. Garcy considered other factors, such as marital status, socioeconomic conditions, and family support, and found that despite these, men with a history of long unemployment were most at risk for suicide during postrecession times.
The results suggest that there is an indirect and loose association between unemployment and suicide. Garcy also looked at other risk factors, such as mental health, drug and alcohol use, and being single and found that these increased the risk. He believes that people with these additional risk factors may have a more fragile sense of psychological well-being and, when subjected to long periods of unemployment, may not be able to cope as well as their more resilient peers.
“Our findings are consistent with the idea that mental health problems are likely to have developed as a result of unemployment, particularly as unemployment experience accumulated over time,” said Garcy. These growing mental health problems put people at greater risk for psychological deterioration and ultimately, suicide. Given the dynamic fluctuations in the global economy, these results are significant for people everywhere. Garcy believes that suicide interventions are particularly essential to people with long-term unemployment histories, especially those with psychological risk factors.
Garcy, A.M., Vagero, D. (2013). Unemployment and Suicide During and After a Deep Recession: A Longitudinal Study of 3.4 Million Swedish Men and Women. American Journal of Public Health 103.6 (2013): 1031-1038. ProQuest. Web.
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