Financial Stress Emerges As Significant Risk Factor for Suicide

Suicide has been researched at length in recent decades. With the current economic downturn, suicide rates have increased. Understanding what factors make someone more vulnerable to suicide is imperative in order to prevent this rate from rising even further. Previous research has shown that the existence of a mental health problem increases the risk for suicide. Posttraumatic stress, depression, and eating and food issues can put someone at increased risk for suicide.

Stressful live events (SLEs) also directly impact the rate of suicide. Individuals who experience significant losses to their financial, emotional, or physical health or are subjected to violence or abuse may also be predisposed to suicide. A family history of suicide is another risk factor that is often reported in research. However, until now, no study has looked at how SLEs impact the risk for suicide independent of mental health status. Understanding if the general population is equally as vulnerable to suicide as those who struggle with psychological problems could expand existing intervention efforts to include more individuals at risk. That was the goal of a recent study led by Yungqiao Wang of the Department of Psychology at the University of Manitoba in Canada. Wang collected data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and controlled for mental health conditions in order to determine how SLEs impacted suicide rates.

Wang examined the frequency and types of SLEs that occurred in over 34,000 individuals in the 12 months prior to the assessments and found that financial stressors had the largest impact on attempted suicides, followed closely by violent assault. Specifically, financial problems led to more suicide attempts than nearly all of the psychological conditions, except depression. Violent assault also increased the risk for suicide above most other mental health problems. Wang also discovered that the participants risk for suicide increased with the number of SLEs. In particular, those participants who had more than three SLEs in the prior year were the most likely to attempt suicide, regardless of mental health status. Wang believes the implications of this novel study are significant. He added, “Family members and health care providers should be aware of these findings to ensure that recent occurrences of these kinds of SLEs prompt appropriate assessment and intervention for suicidal behaviors.”

Wang, Y., Sareen, J., Afifi, T. O., Bolton, S. L., Johnson., E. A. (2012). Recent stressful life events and suicide attempt. Psychiatric Annals, 42.3, 101-108.

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  • steve h

    May 4th, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    At one point almost a year ago I was experiencing an unfortunate turn of finances in my own life as I was unemployed for two years. That was so hard on me and my family, as I was used to being the main breadwinner and during that tiime my wife really felt like she had to pick up the slack because she had a job. It out a kink into our own relationship and I felt helpless to do anything and pretty much worthless. There was even a severe dark time when I thought that I should put them all out of misery and end my life. Luckily that Is not the choice that I made but I was very close. You just don’t know how this will imoact you until you have to live through it and it is an understatement to say that it was a horrible time.

  • Glenn Starnes

    May 4th, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Nobody expects this kind of upheaval in life, especially when you are middle age and think you have it made.

    The scary part of all of this is that a lot of us have found ourselves in exactly this same situation after the economy took a dive in 08 and 09, and many of us still have not recovered.

    I do at least hope that this has been a wakeup call, that far too many of us are living paycheck to paycheck, and that for most of us all it would take is one little unexpected event and we could be on the verge of losing everything.

    Having been through this myself I can very easily see how you might think about suicide being an option.

  • Jillian

    May 4th, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    An SLE is just that, a SIGNIFICANT LIFE EVENT. How could you not think that this would cause stress and anxiety, and perhaps even increase the odds that one would at least consider suicide as a way out?

    If someone that you know is going through this it is crucial that you keep in touch with them and be there when they need you. Look for any big changes in behavior, and if you see something that doesn’t look right then you need to speak up.

  • Ryan

    May 5th, 2012 at 4:47 AM

    if it gets to the point when someone is contemplating suicide, then money won’t fix the problem
    it has moved beyond the financial stress and this is the time to seek professional help for him

  • Experiencer

    May 30th, 2017 at 3:20 PM

    Professional help costs money. If he needs money, then he needs money, not someone trying to take his money.

  • Jane

    May 20th, 2018 at 10:35 AM

    I agree, how can you get psyche help with no money


    May 6th, 2012 at 5:34 AM

    I know that you might be thinking that money and finances would only drive you to think about killing yourself if that money is all that there is in your life. Not true. Most guys that deal with this are worried so much about making ends meet, paying the mortgage, feeding the kids. . . it’s not that money is everything to them but they feel so worthless not being able to provide for the family that it gets to be too much for them to take.

  • selena frye

    May 7th, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    have there been any studies recently about if suicide rates have been on the rise lately along with higher unemployemnt rates? Might be helpful to see if there is a correlation.

  • TGI $$$

    May 8th, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    Money has become so important in our lives and with the financial system that we follow, finding yourself under debt and its implications can really drive a person to take such a step. We need to step back a little and think whether a really big house and the great american dream is more important than actually trying to remain within our means and being happy.

  • Joe

    February 7th, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    big house? i’m a 35 year old professional and i cant even afford my studio apartment. i am sick to my stomach today and suicide is definately on my mind. one has to lay out the options, and that is one of them for me. usually i blow it off, but lately, the suicide option is in the mix more and more. it doesnt get blown off so easily anymore.

  • admin2

    February 7th, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Hi Joe,
    Thank you for your comment. Please know that help is available! If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, in danger of hurting yourself or others, feeling suicidal, overwhelmed, or in crisis, it’s very important that you get immediate help! You can do one of the following immediately:

      Call your local law enforcement agency (911);
      Go to the nearest hospital emergency room;
      Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY:1-800-799-4TTY)

    You can find further resources here:
    In addition, you can find a therapist on at this link:

    We wish you the very best!
    The Team

  • Experiencer

    May 30th, 2017 at 3:24 PM

    Thanks so much for offering him these useless, clichè tips! Nearly each of those options will create a harsh stigma, further humiliation, massive expenses and perhaps a criminal record and a soiled reputation along with traumatizing medical records! Thanks for the advice…

  • Theresa

    April 27th, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    Joe, if you feel that way please get help! My Son Whalon committed suicide 2-10-14. He was 37 years old and had been married to a female that quit work as soon as she rushed him to the courthouse to get married. My son is GONE and we miss him terribly. I would give anything if he had talked to someone instead of taking his life. It is horrible to never hear hear his voice when my phone rings. Please get help <3

  • frank

    April 21st, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    Good article. I recently visited a clinical psychiatrist as I have been living a financial SLE since 2009 and suicidal thoughts have increased and selfworth decreased. I was diagnosed normal and given serotonin medication. I invested in too many properties in a short period of time and ultimately it is suffocating me financially. Investing in the properties was my decision, in hindsight a result of a financial insecure childhood and bad decision making. While I can’t deny responsibility, I stuggle to comprehend the cards that’s been dealt. Some have it eassier than others.

  • Dave

    October 12th, 2014 at 4:44 AM

    I did just the same. Investing in too many properties just before the crash. My intention had been to have property for my children, but I was too late in selling and now can’t afford the prices in London which have increased dramatically in the past year. I’m embarrassed by my financial ineptitude and a failure for my children that will affect them forever. Even though I realise I am fortunate with my wealth remaining, these and other losses have driven me to constantly thinking of suicide most minutes of every day, and paralysed me from doing anything useful or working and my wealth is unravelling and slipping through my fingers. The effect of suicide on my family would add to the problems both emotionally and further financial loss, but I feel it will be inevitable. It sounds inappropriate but i have not benefitted from any treatment, have no previous depression and believe my reaction is solely due to financial loss. I tried psychological techniques, many medications, offered ect but reluctant for this. I seem to be deteriorating over the many months, such that I doubt I can survive the year. On researching this pattern is not uncommon in 60 year old men reflecting on their life and the prognosis is terrible. Has anyone ever recovered from something similar?

  • GoodTherapy Admin

    October 12th, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    Thank you for your comment, Dave. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at

    Warm regards,
    The Team

  • Jack

    July 7th, 2016 at 4:25 PM

    Dave-email me and let’s discuss. I am in the same boat at 61 and thinking of options of getting out of this pain.

  • Peter

    May 17th, 2014 at 10:43 PM

    I was an artist. I loved it but was too poor to keep doing it and pay the bills. So I spent 30 years working hard and living frugally to save money so I can resume doing what I love. I succeeded. Just as I was about to start living, all that money – yes all of it – was lost due to high crime and fraud by a group of rich bankers, most who have walked and are now richer than ever. I don’t have another 30 years left to earn it back. If I had been doing something I loved doing in those thirty years it wouldn’t be so bad, but now those 30 years are a meaningless wasteland. I would have been better off spending the money on having fun. And now I have no second chance at life. So it’s a triple loss. The pain of this immutable fact is unbearable and constant as I continue to work just to put food in my mouth.

    I have been to help sources, sought help from friends. But no-one can give me back the life I worked so hard for. Only the lottery would do that and I’m not going there. I tried SSRI’s, SNRI’s etc. and while they lifted the sadness, they increased anxiety to unlivable levels. I force myself to stay alive to save my mother from the pain she would have if she knew I took my life. I am just able to do this if I avoid all stimulants, eat vegetarian, drink relaxation tea, and focus on sounds while I work and sleep as much as possible. But it is hard work. When my mother dies I will let go too, and finally be in peace.

    One last word, if you have never experienced this kind of loss, I doubt you can possibly understand. I have read a lot of trite comments across the net written by people who have obviously never been there. To those people, please don’t bother writing. Those who know will understand what I mean. I have lost loved ones, but can still cherish their memories. With this I cannot, that time was absolutely worthless and the loss of it’s harvest final. I just heard on the radio that hundreds of farmers in India committed suicide when their land was taken by resource companies. Add them to the list of victims of the financial “services” industry. And so the capitalist death machine rolls on, as the silence of nobody talking about this becomes deafening.

  • GT Support

    May 18th, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    Thank you for your comment, Peter. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at

    Warm regards,
    The Team

  • Chip

    June 8th, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    Peter, please don’t take this the wrong way but I think you are looking for hope in the wrong places. Look to Jesus who is the only hope we have. I hope you can get through the pain.

  • Russel

    September 25th, 2015 at 4:04 PM

    In 12 months through stupid decisions I have lost 90% of my savings. I am too old to get a decent Job and cannot support my family. I think of suicide every day and so far thoughts of how sad my children will be have kept me going. Before this I suffered major depression for years. I am not sure if I will last much longer. I gave my life a shot, had many opportunities and blew them all. Feels like time to call it a day.

  • The Team

    September 25th, 2015 at 7:47 PM

    Thank you for your comment, Russel. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at

    Warm regards,
    The Team

  • Paul

    June 9th, 2016 at 2:15 AM

    Too much sadness. Too much loss. All my life has been one long sad tale of loss. Too much of my life list to alcohol and drugs. Too much time spent alone has left me socially retarded. Financially I am a mess with zero savings and constant uncertainty. Physically I am degrading. Painful joints becoming worse. I am constantly forgetting things. Sad almost all the time. Afraid of life. Afraid of death.

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