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Global economic crisis linked to 10,000 suicides: study

14 June 2014

Perhaps bringing cheer to Indian planners who maintain that the global economic crisis has led to the long downturn in India's economy, a study has found that the recession may have led to thousands of extra suicides, with more than 10,000 people taking their own lives across Europe and North America between late 2007 and 2010.

SuicideFresh research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry finds that suicide rates "rose significantly" after the 2007 economic crash.

The researchers from the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the increase was four times higher among men.

They analysed data from the World Health Organisation about suicides in 24 EU countries, the US and Canada.

Between 2007, when the economic crisis began, and 2009, suicide rates rose in Europe by 6.5%, they found. The rates remained at this elevated level through to 2011.

This corresponds to an additional 7,950 suicides than would have been expected across these EU countries, they said.

Before the recession suicide rates had been falling in Europe, they noted.

In addition, suicide rates in Canada and the US rose by 4.5% and 4.8%, respectively, during the same time.

Overall there were at least 10,000 additional suicides as a result of the economy's downward slide, the authors said. But they said that this is a "conservative" estimate.

Job loss, home repossession and debt are the main risk factors leading to suicide during economic downturns, they said.

"There has been a substantial rise in suicides during the recession, greater than we would have anticipated based on previous trends," said lead author Dr Aaron Reeves, of Oxford University's Department of Sociology.

"A critical question for policy and psychiatric practice is whether suicide rises are inevitable. This study shows that rising suicides have not been observed everywhere so while recessions will continue to hurt, they don't always cause self-harm. A range of interventions, from return to work programmes through to anti-depressant prescriptions, may reduce the risk of suicide during future economic downturns."

Co-author Professor David Stuckler, also from the University of Oxford, added: "Suicides are just the tip of the iceberg. These data reveal a looming mental health crisis in Europe and North America.

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