The Great Recession, which started in 2007, has been tied to more than 10,000 suicides in North America and Europe, Counsel & Heal reported.
In a new study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers from the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine studied data from the 24 nations in the European Union, the United States and Canada. They found that while suicide rates during the recession period rose in some nations, in others it did not.
In the U.S., the suicide rate was on an upward trend at the time, but the start of the Great Recession led to an increased rate – and 4,750 additional deaths. In Europe, suicide rates had been declining, but they increased by 6.5 percent until 2011, leading to 7,950 more suicides. Canada also had an increased suicide rate, with 240 more suicides after 2008.
The researchers noted that in certain nations, such as Sweden, Finland and Austria, the suicide rates did not increase during the economic downturn.
While researchers did find a link between the economic crisis and suicide rates, they did not find a causal relationship. However, they reasoned that that stress from certain variables, such as losing one’s job or source of income may be hard for some to maintain, increasing a person’s suicide risk.
"A critical question for policy and psychiatric practice is whether suicide rises are inevitable," study researcher Dr. Aaron Reeves, of the University of Oxford, told BBC News. "There's a lot of good evidence showing recessions lead to rising suicides, but what is surprising is this hasn't happened everywhere - Austria, Sweden and Finland. It shows policy potentially matters. One of the features of these countries is they invest in schemes that help people return to work, such as training, advice and even subsidized wages."
Researchers concluded that better government support to vulnerable groups of people, including preventative measures and screening tactics, may help prevent suicide rates from rising.