Intended for healthcare professionals


Economic recession and suicide

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 17 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5612
  1. Keith Hawton, professor of psychiatry1,
  2. Camilla Haw, professor in mental healthcare2
  1. 1Centre for Suicide Research, University Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX, UK
  2. 2University of Northampton, Northampton, UK
  1. keith.hawton{at}

The association is clear but government response may limit its extent

Financial recessions and their socioeconomic sequelae can have diverse consequences for population health, a fact that has attracted considerable attention since the 2008 global financial crisis.1 It has long been known that economic conditions can influence suicide rates.2 The depression of the late 1920s to early 1930s was associated with marked rises in suicide, especially in men, which parallelled increases in unemployment.3 The Asian economic recession of 1997-98 was also followed by rising suicide rates, which reflected financial and unemployment indices.4

In a linked article (doi:10.1136/bmj.f5239), Chang and colleagues identified an impact of the 2008 global economic downturn on suicide by comparing numbers of suicides in 53 countries in 2009 with numbers expected on the basis of 2000-07 trends.5 Excess numbers of suicides occurred in many of the countries, especially in Europe and the United States, particularly in men and young people. The rise in suicides correlated with the extent of increased unemployment, with the effect being greatest in countries …

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