12 Jun 2014

Recession linked to rise in suicides in western countries

The recession led to 10,000 suicides in Europe, the US and Canada, 1,000 of them in the UK, according to researchers.

The recession led to 10,000 suicides in Europe, the US and Canada, 1,000 of them of the UK, according to researchers (Getty)

A study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, shows that suicide rates “rose significantly” after the financial crisis following years of decline.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say the increase was four times higher among men and was linked to job loss, debt and home repossession.

They analysed data from the World Health Organization about suicides in 24 EU countries and North America.

Between 2007, when the crisis began, and 2009, suicide rates rose in Europe by 6.5 per cent, remaining at this level until 2011.

In the US, suicides rose by 4.8 per cent between 2007 and 2010, while in Canada the rate increased by 4.5 per cent over the same period.

The authors say there were at least 10,000 suicides due to the recession – above what would have been expected – with most of them related to pre-existing mental health problems.

But they say that differences between countries show that suicides during times of economic turmoil can be minimised.

‘Something can be done’

Co-author Professor David Stuckler, from Oxford University, told Channel 4 News: “We have seen nations experience substantial economic hardship that caused stark rises in suicide.

“But in Austria and Sweden, despite rising unemployment, there has not been a significant change in suicides. This tells you something can be done. You don’t need to blindly accept the link between economics and suicide.”

Prof Stuckler said Sweden and Austria differed from other countries in having “well-resourced return to work programmes”.

The study says anti-depressants also have a part in preventing suicides. In the UK, there was a rise of 11 per cent in prescription of anti-depressants between 2003 and 2007, when the economy was strong. Between 2007 and 2010, it rose by 19 per cent.