CDC Connects Suicide Rates to Dips in the U.S. Economy

Suicide rates in the U.S. rise and fall with the economy, according to a long-range study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Wednesday.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, is the first to look at age-specific suicide rates and compare them to changes in the economy. It found the strongest association between business cycles and suicides among people in prime working ages, between 26 and 64 years old.

The CDC found that suicide rates rose during significant dips in the economy including during the oil crisis of the 1970s, the recession of the early 1980s and the downturn that followed the end of the New Deal. The largest increase in the overall rate occurred during the Great Depression, when it surged to an all-time high in 1932.

Suicide rates fell significantly during expansion in the economy, such as during World War II and hit their lowest point in history in 2000 following the longest expansion of the US economy in history, from 1991 to 2001.

Noting that suicide rates cannot be attributed to a single factor, the CDC said the findings can be instructive to policy makers and those working to prevent suicide.

"Knowing suicides increased during economic recessions and fell during expansions underscores the need for additional suicide prevention measures when the economy weakens," said James Mercy, acting director of CDC's Injury Center's Division of Violence Prevention.