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Due to the financial crisis in recent years, researchers decided to examine the relationship between suicide and unemployment during the recession.  According to a 2014 statement by the World Health Organization, about 800,000 people commit suicide every year, which means that every forty seconds someone takes their own life.

The association between suicide and unemployment is nothing new, as shown in a 1984 study. Along with relationship conflicts, mental illness and prior suicide attempts, losing a job greatly increases the risk of suicide, the World Health Organization stated in 2014. It stands to reason that in times when the unemployment rate is high and a lot of people are losing their jobs, or suffer from stress and insecurity due to finances and the fear of losing their job, suicide rates tend to increase, especially among men.

The increase in the rate of suicide linked with an ongoing recession is four times higher for men than women, making the gender gap that already exists in suicide that much greater.

One of the problems with current studies looking at how the recession influences suicide and unemployment is they usually do not consider previous trends in the rate of suicide and often use data from just a few countries, mostly in Western Europe. Because of these problems, a recent study examined 4 regions of the world.

What the authors of the current study discovered was that an increased risk related to suicide and unemployment existed during the years from 2000 to 2011. This increase was 20% to 30% across these 4 geographic regions. This was shown to be a non-linear association and included a time lag of 6 months, which accommodated the data.

Statistically they predicted that about 233,000 suicides happened each year, and of those 45,000 or almost 20%, had to do with unemployment. When looking at the devastation of the recession, they determined that suicide and unemployment increased by approximately 4,983 from 2007 to 2009, from 41,148 to 46,131. The link between suicide and employment appeared to be constant across all 4 regions looked at in the study, which was also true of the gender influence.

Men had four times the risk when it came to suicide and unemployment. All in all, the researchers discovered that suicide and unemployment went down throughout the duration of the period studied; but differences did show up depending on the region studied. In the Americas, the risk of suicide went up by 0.7% each year, with most of the other regions remaining stable or showing a decline.

This study cannot conclude that unemployment actually “causes” suicide, but what is clear that a relationship exists between unemployment and suicide. Job insecurity and stress at work is frequently related to corporate restructuring and downsizing, which explains the lag time of suicide and unemployment and the prediction that it would go up 6 months before an increase in the rate of unemployment. It is highly probable that suicide and unemployment figures only represent the “tip of the iceberg” with other mental disorders such as depression and anxiety also playing a role.

Don’t let job stress get you down.  Treatment for work related depression and suicidal thoughts can be effective.

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