When the Economy Tanks, More Men Commit Suicide, Says New Study

Written by Tara Culp-Ressler

The Great Recession contributed to an uptick in the suicide rate for men, according to the first study to survey the mental health impact of the economic downturn on a global scale. In 2009, an additional 5,000 people killed themselves.

Researchers compared unemployment rates and suicide data in 54 countries around the world. In 2009, the year after the Great Recession hit, they found that a 37 percent higher unemployment rate was linked to a 3.3 percent increase in men’s global suicide rate. The suicide rates for women were largely unaffected, although the study did find they rose slightly in the Americas.

There was a bigger jump in the suicide rate in countries that used to enjoy much lower unemployment — that is, in places where most people were used to financial success. The majority of the additional deaths took place in 18 countries in the Americas, where the unemployment rate rose up by to 101 percent. In those nations, the overall suicide rate rose by 6.4 percent, nearly double the global average.

The new research falls in line with previous studies that have tracked the negative mental health effects resulting from economic downturns. One recent analysis found that the U.S. suicide rate increased four times faster between 2008 and 2010, right after the housing bubble burst, than it did in the eight years leading up to the Great Recession. Researchers have recorded similar jumps in suicides in Greece, Spain and Italy, as those countries’ economies have been dragged down by austerity policies.

Outside of deaths from suicides, long-term unemployment has also been associated with increased mortality rates in general. According to the Congressional Budget Offices, long stretches of unemployment are “correlated with deteriorating mental and physical health.”

This month marked the five-year anniversary of the very beginning of the financial crisis. The recovery has been largely sluggish, and the majority of U.S. states haven’t yet returned to the levels of employment they enjoyed before the Great Recession hit.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo credit: Thinkstock


M. Squire.
Marie Squire4 years ago

thank-u for this post

Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez4 years ago

Guilt, shame and fear are motivating forces but not in the way we need to build a sustainable and healthy society. We are in the position to make great and needed changes, hopefully we are up for the challenge.....

Sonali G.
Sonali G4 years ago

One thing is for certain. Suicide will affect everybody at some point in life. It is about time the stigma and lack of adequate support services were rectified. There should be no feelings of shame for someone with suicidal thoughts. A person will be unable to ask for help if forced to suppress everything out of fear; fear of an undesirable reaction or fear of rejection.

Lynnl C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Cathleen K.
Cathleen K4 years ago

What's surprised me is that the suicide rate, along with the bank robbery rate, hasn't gone through the roof, the way they did in the Great Depression.

Robert W.
robert W4 years ago

Of note, the so called official unemployment rate doesn't even count those that aren't actively going thru official agencies, disabled & partially disabled,and those just too tired of the endless rejection of liveable employment. I'd bet the suicide rate is the highest for those males in the late 50yr old to late 60 yr. old, and those disabled with incomes less than$1000. per mth. They are mostly likely very tired of continuing when the future for them is never any retirement with any dignity and they are just too tired to work 3 menial jobs with no benefits.
And the wall street magicians who stole America's future for the masses are guaranteed many millions per year, with the help of their partners in Washington.

Fred Barnes
mark h4 years ago

I should add that previous research has shown that suicide is linked to change, not to good or bad events. Humans don't adapt too well, so any sudden change in condition `creates stress, which can result in suicide. This is why life changing events such as moving job, house, school, all those sudden and irreversible changes, create a great deal of stress.

The loss of options and alternatives create stress and anxiety, income has very little to do with susceptibility to suicide, with suicide affecting the rich as much as the poor

june t.
reft h4 years ago

The rich must think suicide is merely a way of eliminating the pesky problem of "surplus population"

Marianne C.
Marianne C4 years ago

It's obvious that the social safety net has failed in far too many cases. My neighbor's cousin committed suicide this summer because he had lost his job and could no longer make his house payments. He walked out to the yard and shot himself. Like so many others, he had been set up for failure by the greedy rich: an employer who had no loyalty to him despite his loyalty to the job, and bankers who made him believe the housing bubble was never going to burst.

Karen C.
Karen Chestney4 years ago

Interesting article. "Male" = breadwinner, unemployment = inability to fulfill role = failure = depression. Thus higher rates of male suicides. Females get creative before "giving-up".