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Social Security and Suicide

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Social Security and Suicide"

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Social Security Administration building, Washington, DC (cc photo by Ken Mayer)

Social Security Administration building, Washington, DC (cc photo by Ken Mayer)

Jacob Weisberg discusses various pro-death initiatives from the American right and brings this interesting factoid about Social Security and suicide rates:

Other GOP policies promote death for senior citizens with more modest incomes. Take the conservative push to privatize Social Security, which George W. Bush proposed and failed to get Congress to pass in 2005. Social Security has driven life expectancy up and death rates down since it was instituted. It has an especially pronounced impact on suicide rates for the elderly, which have declined 56 percent since 1930. Had Bush prevailed, we would now be undoing income security for the elderly. Those who gambled on the stock market and lost would be less able to afford medicine, food, and heating for their homes. In aggregate, they’d presumably die younger and commit suicide more often.

Whenever you read, whether in the context of the United States or Japan or Europe, about the “problem” of population aging and demographic shifts it’s really worth reflecting on the fact that these are good problems to have. That old people live longer these days, with better medical care and radically less suicide, is a good thing. The fact that our wealthier societies allow people to spend more years in retirement after a few decades of productive work is a good thing. There are certain policy challenges associated with this, but it shouldn’t really be seen as a bleak scenario or an overall negative situation.

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