Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

(Photo: Jeff Turner/flickr/cc)

"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."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

11 Senators Support House Progressives' Push to Pass Full Biden Agenda

"We voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the clear commitment that the two pieces of the package would move together along a dual track."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ex-Prisoners Recall US Torture at 'Afghanistan's Abu Ghraib'

"It is psychologically hard for me to recall all that was happening," said one former Bagram Air Base inmate. "The torture was mostly done by Afghans, sometimes the Americans. But the orders came from the U.S."

Brett Wilkins ·


Rapid Shift to Electric Vehicles Could Create Over 150,000 Jobs in US by 2030

A new report says "smart" pro-labor policies by lawmakers would transform the "inevitable" shift to EVs "into a new beginning for U.S. producers and the rebuilding of a foundation for good jobs."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Groundbreaking' Win as Court Rules USFWS Can't Ignore Climate Impacts on Joshua Tree

The ruling represents a step forward "for all climate-imperiled species whose fate relies upon the service following the law," said advocacy group WildEarth Guardians.

Julia Conley ·


WHO's New Air Pollution Guidelines Reflect Deadly Toll of Fossil Fuels

"What matters most is whether governments implement impactful policies to reduce pollutant emissions, such as ending investments in coal, oil, and gas and prioritizing the transition to clean energy," said a Greenpeace scientist.

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo