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Our study shows that economic recession leads to increased levels of suicide

Our study shows that economic recession leads to increased levels of suicide

The 2008 global financial crisis affected economies around the world. It led to the deepest UK recession since World War II, with rises in unemployment, debt and home repossessions. Young people experienced particularly high levels of job losses and unemployment.

The recession was associated with a reversal in previously falling suicide rates in England, as well as increases in suicide attempts and depression, particularly in males. The full extent of the effect of the recession on population mental health and suicide is now becoming clear. It is critical that we learn lessons from this recession to enable more rapid and evidence-based responses to reduce the impact of future economic downturns on mental health.

We produced a report which summarises findings from a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR)-funded research project that is assessing the impact of the recession on suicide rates. It is led by researchers from the University of Bristol, in collaboration with colleagues from the Universities of Manchester and Oxford.

The research used national mortality statistics, inquest reports of people dying by suicide and interviews with people affected by the recession, including nineteen who had made suicide attempts, to understand ways in which the recession affected mental health and suicide.

Key findings were:

  • Economic recessions lead to increased levels of mental illness, suicide and suicidal behaviour.
  • Rises in redundancies and unemployment as a result of the 2008 recession were greatest in young people, particularly males.
  • Key stressors include job loss, financial difficulties, debt, loss of home and relationship stresses.
  • The people most affected are individuals who are already vulnerable due to pre-existing mental health problems and other risk factors for mental illness and suicide.
  • Many individuals who die by suicide in the context of employment or financial difficulties are not in contact with mental health services or their GP.
  • People experiencing mental health problems as a result of their financial and employment difficulties often lack the motivation and support to navigate the benefits and advice systems

You can download the full report here.