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Scientific Study Reveals Link Between Recession and Suicide in the UK

News   •   Aug 15, 2012 00:00 BST

As the Olympic glory of Team GB slowly fades and a post jubilation Britain returns to the harsh reality of our continuing economic recession, a scientific study published today suggests that these ongoing austerity measures and rising unemployment have driven more than 1,000 people in Britain to take their own lives.

Reuters reports on this worrying revelation:

‘The study, a so-called time-trend analysis which compared the actual number of suicides with those expected if pre-recession trends had continued, reflects findings elsewhere in Europe where suicides are also on the rise.

“This is a grim reminder after the Olympics of the challenges we face and those that lie ahead,” said David Stuckler, a sociologist at Cambridge University who co-led the study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The analysis found that between 2008 and 2010 there were 846 more suicides among men in England than would have been expected if previous trends continued, and 155 more among women.

Between 2000 and 2010 each annual 10 percent increase in the number of unemployed people was associated with a 1.4 percent increase in the number of male suicides, the study found.

The analysis used data from the National Clinical and Health Outcomes Database and the Office of National Statistics.

Stuckler, who worked with researchers from Liverpool University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, stressed while this kind of statistical study could not establish a causal link, the power of the associations was strong. Its conclusions were strengthened by other indicators of rising mental health problems, stress and anxiety, he added.

He also pointed out the study showed a small reduction in the number of suicides in 2010, which coincided with a slight recovery in male employment.


A survey of 300 family doctors published by the Insight Research Group on Tuesday found that 76 percent of those questioned about the effects of the economic crisis said they thought it was making people unhealthier, leading to more anxiety, abortions and alcohol abuse.

Data this month from the government’s Health and Social Care Information Centre showed the number of prescriptions dispensed in England for antidepressants rose 9.1 percent in 2010.

A study published last July, also by Stuckler, found that across Europe, suicide rates rose sharply from 2007 to 2009 as the financial crisis drove unemployment up and squeezed incomes.

The countries worst hit by severe economic downturns, such as Greece and Ireland, saw the most dramatic increases in suicides.

In Britain, there’s little doubt times have been getting harder. Many Britons have had the worst squeeze in living standards for 40 years and the crisis has hit young people hard, with youth unemployment soaring above 20 percent.

Stuckler’s BMJ study found that the number of unemployed men rose on average across Britain by 25.6 percent each year from 2008 to 2010, a rise associated with a yearly increase in male suicides of 3.6 percent.

“Much of men’s identity and sense of purpose is tied up with having a job. It brings income, status, importance…” Stuckler said in a telephone interview.

“And there’s also a pattern in the UK where men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, while women are much more likely to report being depressed and seek help.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that every year, almost a million people die from suicide across the globe – a rate of 16 per 100,000, or one every 40 seconds.

The U.N. health body also estimated that for every suicide, there are up to 20 attempted ones.’

Although the suicide statistics in the report include both sexes, what is very clear  from Stuckler’s study is the disparity between the numbers of men taking their own lives compared to that of women. 

CALM have been long term advocates of highlighting this gender issue when it comes to any attempt at suicide prevention, and is crucial to address gender if we are to make any real inroads into suicide prevention.  Women are equally facing unemployment, anxiety and depression, and have been highlighted by the press as being one section of society most harshly effected by government cuts, yet it remains a fact that men of all ages are less likely to seek help and more likely to take their own lives.  Through our continued campaign to change the culture surrounding male suicide and depression, CALM aim to change the attitudes of not only those directly affected by suicide but also the general public.

Number of suicides: by sex and age group, England and Wales, 2001 to 2011 (ICD-10 codes X60-X84, Y10-Y34)
Age group20012002200320042005200620072008200920102011
5 -14
5 -14

To read the full Reuters report, click HERE

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