Tuesday, 17 September 2013

2008 Recession Linked To Thousands of Suicides, Study Finds

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Thousands of people who lost their job during the 2008 recession committed suicide, according to a new study.

Economic depression may lead to emotional depression, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ. Researchers from universities across Europe and Asia found that the economic crisis that began in 2008 led to thousands of suicides, especially in working-age men, in America and abroad – a finding that shows that economic problems affect far more than just our wallets.
There was a 37 percent increase in unemployment worldwide between 2008 and 2009, according to the study, and over that same timespan, there was a 3.3 percent increase in the number of suicides in working-age men. The increase was most severe in European countries, which saw a 4.2 percent increase, and in the Americas, which saw a 6.4 percent increase. The increased suicide rate of women worldwide was much smaller, at 2.4 percent.
“We found a clear rise in suicide after the 2008 global economic crisis,” the researchers, led by Shu-Sen-Chang, PhD, a research assistant professor specializing in suicide prevention at the University of Honk Kong, wrote in the study. “The rise in the number of suicides is only a small part of the emotional distress caused by the economic downturn. Non-fatal suicide attempts could be 40 times more common than completed suicides, and for every suicide attempt about 10 people experience suicidal thoughts.”
Many people slip into depression after losing their job, said Mark Rubinstein, MD, a clinical psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, so it comes as no surprise that an uptick in suicides would correlate with the 2008 economic crisis.
“Depression invariably follows some kind of significant personal loss,” Dr. Rubinstein said. “You have a subgroup of people who have suffered a major loss, not only of income, but of self-esteem and their ability to think of themselves of breadwinners. Mix this with the anxiety that comes with financial problems, and it seems that it seems little more than common sense that you’re going to have a mass of people who are facing depression.”
But the uptick in suicide wasn’t only seen in unemployed people, said Eric Caine, MD, chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Rochester.
“Some people had their houses go underwater, but they’re still working,” Dr. Caine said. “Others are under-employed or working part time. So while we don’t know what’s going on at the individual level, we know that family financial problems are one of the big precursors that lead to turmoil and potentially suicide. “
“What we’re really inferring from this study,” Caine added, “is that as the economic environment changes, many more families are exposed to these aggregating factors. In that large pool of people, there are some people where it is just too much.”
And while many of these people would benefit from mental health screenings, losing their job means losing their health insurance, at least in the United States, Rubinstein said. In order to really help reduce the number of suicides, mental health screenings need to be available without needing insurance.
“If someone loses their job and their health benefits, it argues very strongly for a mental health system that is independent of their job,” Rubinstein said. “There needs to be a better system. The one we have that is linked to your employer doesn’t work when people really need it.”
Unfortunately, changing the system is never easy, Caine said.
“Circumstances like that challenge us to think creatively,” he said. “A mix of things like greater support from the health system and greater attention from the unemployment office would help.”
So until a change is made, it’s up to family and friends to look out for their loved ones who have been affected by the recession, Rubinstein said.
 “People need to educate themselves on the things to lookout for, including loss of interest in activities, being withdrawn, crying and loss of appetite,” ,” he said. “Having a family and a support network can be a lifesaver.”