After two decades of decline, the suicide rate in Great Britain began rising in 2008, mystifying researchers. Now, a new study finds that that nation's financial crisis may help explain the sudden reversal, linking rising unemployment geographically with hikes in suicides.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, a team of public health researchers found that between 2008 and 2010, Great Britain's worsening financial crisis and rising unemployment rate coincided with almost 1,000 suicides above expected levels. The economic downturn and resulting unemployment among men could account for as much as 39% of that increase in suicides among men -- 326 suicides in total -- they concluded.
For women, the researchers found a weak relationship between rising unemployment rates and increasing suicide.
While suicide can rarely be explained by a single factor, the link between economic downturn and a hike in suicide rates has long been suspected. A study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the period 1928 to 2007 and found that U.S. suicide rates rose and fell in tandem with the nation's business cycle. Mental health professionals have long linked their patients' job loss or sudden changes in financial status with depression and suicide risk.