Suicide Rates Climb When Economy Drops

Statistics show that suicide rates increase in times of economic trouble. A new study looked at suicide rates compared to business cycles and made some startling discoveries. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that working people aged 25-64 were at most risk for suicide during poor economic times. Death by suicide climbed significantly during the great depression and the oil crisis of the mid 1970’s and dropped when the economy improved.

“Knowing suicides increased during economic recessions and fell during expansions underscores the need for additional suicide prevention measures when the economy weakens,” said James Mercy, acting director of CDC’s Injury Center’s Division of Violence Prevention. This new study is the first of its kind to cover an 80-year time span and identify 8 different age sectors. The findings show that the largest percentage of suicides was from those who were of median working age and responsible for multiple financial obligations, including mortgages and educational expenses.

Dr. Alexander E. Crosby, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention and a coauthor of the paper stated in another article, that people are at risk for suicide due to many factors, including difficult relationships, mental illness, addictions, and that the financial strain can be the final straw. Dr. Crosby hopes that the message people receive from this research is to reach out to those who are most vulnerable. He encourages communities to target their prevention outreach programs to working Americans between the ages of 25 and 54, and to put special emphasis on regions hit particularly hard by unemployment and other economic plights. Dr. Crosby hopes that by doing this, this sector of at risk people will know “where to turn, who to turn to, and don’t feel like they are isolated and have no hope, nowhere to go.”

If you feel you or someone you know many be at risk, the National Crisis Hotline can help. Call 1-800-273-TALK

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Tim


    April 19th, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    The age group most susceptible to suicide during economically tough times is the age group of people who are the producers, the working age. It can become very difficult for an earning member of the family, especially the bread-winner,to cope with an economic slump. And suicides are bound to increase in such times. Sad but true.

  • alan murray

    alan murray

    April 19th, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    it’s almost ridiculous how important money has become in our lives…yes,it’s needed for our basic needs and everything,but is it so important that you end your life because you do not have enough of it?!I don’t think that is an intelligent thing to do!

  • Chip


    April 20th, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Naturally I would have to say that people face way more uncertainties and insecurities in life when the economy is down. But I would also have to say that the people who choose to end their own lives are probably predisposed to do that anyway. I never think that it would be just one thing that could cause someone to take such drastic measures. maybe I am wrong but that has to be something that had already been in the back of their minds and maybe something just sends them over the edge that would cause them to end it all.

  • Gordon


    April 23rd, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    I think if you have money, you can cope with just about anything but when the bank account is empty save for a few dollars, it compounds everything else that’s wrong in your life. That magnification is an enormous source of stress.

  • Jerome


    April 23rd, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    I’m not convinced that money is the root of all evil. I think poverty is. That kind of desperation is what drives the vulnerable into the arms of pimps, loan sharks, gangs and other low lifes, and eventually in some cases to suicide.

  • stevie


    April 23rd, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    Debts pile up and folks see no way out. Sadly some would rather kill themselves than live on the streets. With the economy as bad as it is, more are in debt and losing their jobs every single day. Don’t let the government fool you into believing it’s getting better. Seen the housing market? It’s not. But eventually it will recover. Folks just need to hang on in there best they can until then.

  • Adele


    April 25th, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    @ It’s all because the rich who rake in huge sums of money don’t pay enough taxes that could go towards benefiting the unemployed who lose their jobs. The rich know all the loopholes to evade it legally. If they paid in more, the unemployed could be helped more and be given a better income rate.

  • Nadia


    April 25th, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    If they had given ten grand to each citizen of the United States to spend as they wished instead of bailing out Wall St, it would have boosted up the economy, given folks hope and cost them less. Guess that was too straightforward a solution.

  • Mack


    April 26th, 2011 at 6:25 AM

    Look people, we can badmouth the bailout until we’re blue in the face, but the fact is that folks are still killing themselves because of financial issues. It hasn’t helped! That should all be behind us. This is not the so-called advanced 21st century if folks die over money worries. It’s shocking that even today we as a world are incapable of looking after the weakest of the weak – the poor and the mentally and physically challenged in our society.

  • Lynn


    April 26th, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    @Mack, I completely agree. With each family having an average of 1.5 kids, a contributor though is also overpopulation. There are simply not enough jobs, and we cannot create enough jobs to keep the rate down. There is no ethical way to solve this that I can see.

  • Olivia


    April 26th, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    @Lynn– it’s not ethics that are the problem. One child per family? People would protest about taking away their freedom of choice. Force companies to open more jobs? Companies would protest about the burden of new employees. Encourage graduates to emigrate to other places with jobs? They would protest about brain drain. Try and help with financial issues like healthcare? People protest about the cost of supporting those initiatives. There is no way to win and please everybody. There will always be objectors to any propositions put forward to that could alleviate the financial stresses on individuals.

  • Paul


    April 27th, 2011 at 11:42 PM

    @Olivia: Well said. The real problem is that there’s too much “them and us”, too much divisiveness. As a nation we should be united in a common goal: financial security and peace of mind for all! The spirit of compassion has vanished almost. It’s so tragic that some see suicide as the only way out. Have we forgotten the Statue of Liberty poem?

    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    Time we took those words to heart again.

  • jackie


    April 29th, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    This is a vicious cycle as well. They have no job, they become depressed because they have no money. They need to see a doctor, but they can’t afford their insurance and had to drop it, so can’t afford to see a doctor. They become more depressed, and some are tragically pushed over the edge to suicide. Money rules the world.

  • Lesley


    April 30th, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    There are free and low cost clinics out there. Just Google it to find your closest one. You could have one on your doorstep and not know it. There is always help if you can just bring yourself to tell someone you need it. If you don’t want to see a doctor, talk to your pastor or friends or family, or call the anonymous helplines. Others do care and do want to help.

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