Suicide Rate Tied to Economy, CDC Says

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NEW YORK (MainStreet)  — The suicide rate is strongly linked to the health of the economy, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, the increase in suicides during an economic downturn is caused by heightened levels of stress in a large part of the population.

"Economic problems can impact how people feel about themselves and their futures, as well as their relationships with family and friends," Feijun Luo, an economist in CDC's Division of Violence Prevention and the study's lead author said in a press release.

The study, which looked at suicide rates between 1928 and 2007, found the link was prevalent among those in their prime working years, or between 25 and 64 years old.

According to the research, the overall suicide rate rose during the end of the New Deal (1937-1938), the Oil Crisis (1973-75) and the Double-Dip Recession of 1980-82.

The Great Depression is credited with the largest increase in overall suicide rate, when the percentage of deaths by suicides surged from 18% in 1928 to an all-time high of 22.1% in 1932, the last full year of that era. The figures represent a record increase of 22.8% in any four-year period in history.

Conversely, rates fell in boom periods, most notably during World War II (1939-1945), and from 1991 to 2001, a time when the economy enjoyed fast growth and low unemployment. According to the CDC, the suicide rate in 2000 fell to its lowest point during the measured years at 10.7%.

Researchers said the study emphasizes the need for suicide prevention services.  

"Knowing suicides increased during economic recessions and fell during expansions underscores the need for additional suicide prevention measures when the economy weakens," James Mercy, acting director of CDC's Injury Center's Division of Violence Prevention, said.  "It is an important finding for policy makers and those working to prevent suicide."

The CDC suggests providing social support and counseling services to those who lose their jobs or homes, while promoting individual, family and community connectedness. Additionally, it supports increasing the accessibility of crisis centers and other community services to those in need.

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