Thousands of suicides are linked to the global financial crisis, with particularly high numbers of people killing themselves in countries suffering heavy job losses as austerity bites, an international study has concluded.
The research found there were about 5,000 more self-inflicted deaths in Europe and North America in 2009 – the first year after the banking crash triggered economic turmoil – than would have been expected in normal times.
Britain shared in the distressing trend, suffering 300 extra suicides in 2009, according to a study published last night by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Researchers blamed the spike in suicides on soaring dole queues – an estimated 34 million people worldwide lost their jobs during the crisis – as well as bankruptcies and housing repossessions. According to their analysis of suicide rates in 45 countries in Europe and North America, young men aged between 15 and 24 were particularly vulnerable.
“Men are more likely to be the main earner in the family and thus more affected by the recession than women. They might experience a greater degree of shame in the face of unemployment and are less likely to seek help,” their report said.
They said there was evidence that numbers of self-inflicted deaths increased sharply in countries where unemployment had been relatively low before the credit crunch.
And the researchers, from universities in Bristol, Oxford and Hong Kong, warned they could still be underestimating the extent of the problem as some countries hit hard by the financial crash were excluded from their study.
They added: “The rise in the number of suicides is only a small part of the emotional distress caused by the economic downturn. Non-fatal suicide attempts could be 40 times more common than completed suicides and for every suicide attempt about ten people experience suicidal thoughts.”
The Samaritans said the conclusions chimed with their experience of dealing with suicidal and deeply depressed callers who were increasingly raising problems with redundancy, debt and mortgage repayments.
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