Background Existing research on the relationship between economic recessions and suicides has almost completely concentrated on the most recent global financial crisis (2008). We provide the most comprehensive explanation to date of how different types of economic/financial crises since 1970 have affected suicides in developed countries.
Methods Negative binomial regressions were used to estimate what the suicide rates would have been during and 1 year after each crisis began in 21 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries from 1970 to 2011 if the suicide rates had followed the pre-crisis trends.
Results We found that every economic/financial crisis since 1970, except the European Exchange Rate Mechanism crisis in 1992, led to excess suicides in developed countries. Among males, the excess suicide rate (per 100 000 persons) varied from 1.1 (95% CI 0.7 to 1.5) to 9.5 (7.6 to 11.2) and, among females, from 0 to 2.4 (1.9 to 2.9). For both sexes, suicides increased mostly due to stock market crashes and banking crises. In terms of actual numbers, the post-1969 economic/financial crises caused >60 000 excess suicides in the 21 developed countries. The Asian financial crisis in 1997 was the most damaging crisis when assessed based on excess suicides.
Conclusions Evidence indicates that, when considered in terms of effects on suicide mortality, the most recent global financial crisis is not particularly severe compared with previous global economic/financial crises. The distinct types of crises (ie, banking, currency and inflation crises, and stock market crashes) have different effects on suicide.
- public health
- social epidemiology
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Contributors SH and MK contributed to the writing of the manuscript. SH contributed to the statistical design of the study and the interpretation of data. JM contributed to the interpretation of data and revised the manuscript. MK designed and supervised the study.
Funding This work was supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation [#00150254 to SH] and Academy of Finland (#268336 to JM).
Disclaimer The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.