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"Middle aged adults are more likely than others to be family breadwinners and supporting dependents," noted the researchers. (Photo: Jeff Turner/flickr/cc)

Great Recession Linked to Rising Suicides Among Middle-Aged Americans

New study follows numerous findings that austerity and economic hardship are tied to suicide spikes across age groups and nations

Sarah Lazare

Economic crises kill in more ways than one.

The Great Recession can be tied to a jump in suicides among middle-aged people in the U.S., a new article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals.

Suicide rates among Americans aged 40 to 64 have been climbing since 1999, far out-pacing other age groups, the researchers note. This included a drastic increase in suicides in 2007, at the outset of the financial nosedive.

The researchers evaluated data from the National Violent Death Reporting System database, which is maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to determine the circumstances and motives for suicides in 16 states.

They found that suicides where external economic factors were present jumped from 32.9 percent in 2005 to 37.5 percent in 2010.

"The sharpest increase in external circumstances appears to be temporally related to the worst years of the Great Recession, consistent with other work showing a link between deteriorating economic conditions and suicide," wrote authors Katherine Hempstead, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at Princeton and Julie Phillips, from the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers.

"Middle aged adults are more likely than others to be family breadwinners and supporting dependents," noted the researchers.

In one of the study's more grim observations, suicide by suffocation hiked 59.5 percent among middle-aged Americans between 2005 and 2010.

"Relative to other age groups, a larger and increasing proportion of middle-aged suicides have circumstances associated with job, financial, or legal distress and are completed using suffocation," explained the authors.

The new article follows numerous findings that poverty and austerity are linked to suicides across age groups and nations.

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry last month found that, in North America and Europe, "the Great Recession is associated with at least 10,000 additional economic suicides between 2008 and 2010."

Furthermore, a paper published earlier this month in the journal BMJ Open concluded that austerity measures imposed in Greece in 2011 "marked the beginning of significant, abrupt and sustained increases in total suicide."


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