The recent economic crisis could be to blame for an increase in suicide rates in Europe and America, say experts.
Their analysis in the British Medical Journal looked at data from 54 countries to assess the global impact of the financial problems triggered by the collapse of US credit and housing markets in 2008.
In the year after the crisis began, the male suicide rate rose by 3.3% overall.
This was largely in the countries where there were more reported job losses.
The researchers from the universities of Oxford and Bristol in the UK, along with colleagues from Hong Kong University, used data from the World Health Organization mortality database, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook database.
In 2009, there was a 37% rise in unemployment and 3% falls in GDP per capita, reflecting the onset of the economic crisis in 2008.
At the same time, male suicide rates began to climb.
There were nearly 5,000 ‘extra’ suicides above the expected level for that year.
These were mainly seen in the 27 European countries and 18 countries in the Americas studied.
In Europe, suicides increased among 15-24-year-old men, while in America the rise was seen in the 45-64 age group.
Yet the suicide rate for women did not change in Europe and only increased slightly in America.
The researchers say the link they found is likely to be causal – meaning the suicides were related to the emotional stress of being in a recession – but they cannot prove it.
It is possible other factors may be at play, but mental health charities say their own experience would back up the researchers’ theory.
A Samaritans spokesperson said: “It is no surprise to us to be told that suicides rise during recessions.
“A snapshot survey of calls to our branches in 2008, just before the current recession began, showed that one in 10 callers talked about financial difficulties. That had risen to one in six at the end of last year. Clearly this is a factor that governments need to keep in mind when planning for economic downturns.”
A spokeswoman for the charity Mind said they too had been receiving more calls to their helpline from people distressed about money worries and unemployment.
The national UK charity PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide) said while it could not say that there had been any recent rise in calls from young people to its national helpline specifically naming the economic crisis as a direct cause of feeling suicidal, difficulty in finding work, managing finances and student debt were “consistent themes” from those seeking help.