04 Oct Suicide: Impact of 2008 Global Economic Crisis
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Shu-Sen Chang, MD, MSc, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
HKJC Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention
The University of Hong Kong
2/F, The Hong Kong Jockey Club Building for Interdisciplinary Research, 5 Sassoon Road Pokfulam, Hong Kong
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Chang: The study shows a marked increase in suicide in 2009 following the 2008 global economic crisis, particularly in men in the 27 European and 18 American countries included in the study. There were estimated approximately 5000 excess suicides across all 54 study countries in 2009. The largest increase in Europe was seen in 15-24 year old men and in 45-64 year old men in America.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?
Dr. Chang: The main finding of an increase in suicide following the economic crisis is not surprising. It is in keeping with analyses of previous recessions – suicide rates increased in affected countries during the Great Depression in the late 1920s to early 1930s, the Russian economic crisis in the early 1990s, and the Asian economic crisis in the late 1990s. Past research also indicates that men are more likely to be affected by economic downturns, in parallel with our findings. However, our analysis suggested that the age pattern in men appeared to be different in European countries and American countries, in contrast to the previous finding of the greatest effect in men of working age.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Chang: Clinicians, patients, family, relatives, and the public in general should be aware of the risks associated with economic downturn related stress. Help-seeking amongst people in distress, either in people with or without current contact with health or mental health services, should be encouraged. The research findings also have implications for areas beyond the health care sector. Social protection measures, such as programs that actively help people stay in job or find jobs, may help to offset some of the impact of economic recessions on suicide, as re-employment may substantially reduce mental health risks of job loss. Such measures may be usefully targeted on high risk groups e.g. young men in Europe. Austerity measures (e.g. cuts in welfare / mental health care) should not be targeted on those most vulnerable in society. Media reporting of suicide should be sensitive and responsible, avoiding simplification such as suggesting recession or unemployment as the only cause of any single suicide.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Chang: Future research may usefully focus on the longer term effect of the economic downturn on population mental health and suicide rate, factors that may have contributed to differences in the crisis’s impact between men and women, in different age groups, and in different countries, and which measures that countries have adopted may have offset the impact of recession.
Last Updated on October 4, 2013 by Marie Benz MD FAAD