Study links global recession to 10,000 additional deaths by suicide
Published Wednesday, June 11, 2014 8:08PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 11, 2014 10:58PM EDT
The global recession can be linked an additional 10,000 suicides in Canada, the United States and Europe, according to a new study, which argues that such deaths may be preventable with proper government intervention.
Research out of the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that the recession was linked to a spike in suicide rates across Europe and North America, with the rate being four times higher among men.
The study, due to be published in the British Journal of Psychiatry on Thursday, showed that suicides in Canada rose 4.5 per cent between 2007 and 2010, while the U.S. rate increased by 4.8 per cent over the same period.
In Europe, the suicide rate rose by 6.5 per cent by 2009 and remained elevated until 2011, despite European Union countries experiencing a downward trend in suicide rates prior to the recession.
Report author Aaron Reeves says what's interesting about the study is it offers some insight as to why some countries experience an increase in suicide rates during an economic crisis, while others do not.
The study documented three cases: Sweden and Finland in the early 1990s, and Austria in 2008 -- all of which experienced a recession but did not see a rise in suicide rates.
"One of the explanations that we offer is potentially due to what we call ‘active labour market schemes’ that try to help people return to work. They try to support to people who are experiencing job loss,” Reeves told CTV News on Wednesday.
He said countries that have invested in those programs tend to be able to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on suicide.
"We know an economic crisis will return, a recession will return, and we argue that these suicides are perhaps preventable if countries invest in these kinds of things," he said.
Reeves said suicide rates among men can generally be two to three times greater compared to women. But during the recession the rate was four times greater.
He said in many of the countries affected by the recession, men are more involved in the labour market and more likely to experience job loss than women. He also said men tend to be more affected by debt and housing foreclosures.
"It's not always very clear why men would be more affected by those sorts of things than women,” he said. "That's something that needs to be better understood."
Paula Allen, vice-president of research with HR consulting firm Morneau Shepell, said her company’s employment support centre saw a 30-per-cent increase in people calling with suicidal intent in 2010, compared to 2009.
She said losing one's home or job are psychological distress risk factors.
"What is most important for suicide specifically is when people actually don’t see their way out, they don't see a likelihood of change," she said.
Allen said it's rare for someone to commit suicide without showing signs beforehand.
"Part of it is when you see the warning signs, when you see the psychological distress … to take action to get help as early as possible."
Allen said in job-loss situations, it's important for individuals to go through a debriefing process.
"It helps frame for people this pretty negative situation in a way that feels manageable, and also puts them on the right road to get help if they need additional help."
With a report from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip