Did the Great Recession increase suicides in the USA? Evidence from an interrupted time-series analysis

Abstract

PURPOSE: Research suggests that the Great Recession of 2007-2009 led to nearly 5000 excess suicides in the United States. However, prior work has not accounted for seasonal patterning and unique suicide trends by age and gender. METHODS: We calculated monthly suicide rates from 1999 to 2013 for men and women aged 15 and above. Suicide rates before the Great Recession were used to predict the rate during and after the Great Recession. Death rates for each age-gender group were modeled using Poisson regression with robust variance, accounting for seasonal and nonlinear suicide trajectories. RESULTS: There were 56,658 suicide deaths during the Great Recession. Age- and gender-specific suicide trends before the recession demonstrated clear seasonal and nonlinear trajectories. Our models predicted 57,140 expected suicide deaths, leading to 482 fewer observed than expected suicides (95% confidence interval -2079, 943). CONCLUSIONS: We found little evidence to suggest that the Great Recession interrupted existing trajectories of suicide rates. Suicide rates were already increasing before the Great Recession for middle-aged men and women. Future studies estimating the impact of recessions on suicide should account for the diverse and unique suicide trajectories of different social groups.

Publication
Ann Epidemiol
Sam Harper
Sam Harper
Associate Professor of Epidemiology

My research interests include impact evaluation, reproducible research, and social epidemiology.

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