The Great Recession contributed to an uptick in the suicide rate for men, according to the first study to survey the mental health impact of the economic downturn on a global scale. In 2009, an additional 5,000 people killed themselves.
Researchers compared unemployment rates and suicide data in 54 countries around the world. In 2009, the year after the Great Recession hit, they found that a 37 percent higher unemployment rate was linked to a 3.3 percent increase in men’s global suicide rate. The suicide rates for women were largely unaffected, although the study did find they rose slightly in the Americas.
There was a bigger jump in the suicide rate in countries that used to enjoy much lower unemployment — that is, in places where most people were used to financial success. The majority of the additional deaths took place in 18 countries in the Americas, where the unemployment rate rose up by to 101 percent. In those nations, the overall suicide rate rose by 6.4 percent, nearly double the global average.
The new research falls in line with previous studies that have tracked the negative mental health effects resulting from economic downturns. One recent analysis found that the U.S. suicide rate increased four times faster between 2008 and 2010, right after the housing bubble burst, than it did in the eight years leading up to the Great Recession. Researchers have recorded similar jumps in suicides in Greece, Spain, and Italy as those countries’ economies have been dragged down by austerity policies.
Outside of deaths from suicides, long-term unemployment has also been associated with increased mortality rates in general. According to the Congressional Budget Offices, long stretches of unemployment are “correlated with deteriorating mental and physical health.”
This month marked the five-year anniversary of the very beginning of the financial crisis. The recovery has been largely sluggish, and the majority of U.S. states haven’t yet returned to the levels of employment they enjoyed before the Great Recession hit.