The real reason suicides dropped during the pandemic

C C Offline

EXCERPT: . . . In many ways, the pandemic has been a “perfect storm” for suicide risk. But recent data shows people in high and middle-income countries actually killed themselves at lower rates in 2020. There’s one big reason: money.

Governments gave their citizens cash to weather the lockdowns. For many poor people, the pandemic money exceeded the regular social assistance and wages they would have otherwise earned. Poverty dropped in the U.S., and despite all the grief and isolation and anxiety, suicide rates dropped along with it. In Canada, where the emergency government payments were large and lasting, the suicide rate dropped 30 percent, according to provisional data. Altogether, suicides rates in 2020 either decreased or stayed flat in 21 high and middle-income countries (there’s very little data on the pandemic’s effect on suicide in poor countries). Cash transfers to poor people appear to have reduced suicides.

The 2020 decline in suicides is just the latest evidence that poverty drives suicide. In recent years, researchers have found that suicide rates are the highest among the poorest people. The children of people on welfare are twice as likely to die by suicide. Homeless people kill themselves about 10 times as often as people with housing.

Poor people are more vulnerable to suicide because the strain of poverty drastically increases a person’s odds of developing a mental illness. Low socioeconomic status causes roughly half of mental illnesses. People are much more likely to develop illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia when they don’t have enough money to meet their material needs. Researchers have long found that suicide rates and psychiatric hospitalizations reliably go up in the wake of rising unemployment.

Fortunately, money fixes the same problems it causes. Unemployment rates have much less of an effect on suicide in countries with stronger financial supports for people who lose their jobs, according to a study that compared New Zealand, which made steep cuts to its welfare state amid a recession, to Finland, which didn’t. Fewer poor people died by suicide in Indonesia after the government began giving them money. Upping the minimum wage lowers suicide rates among poor people in the U.S. The conclusion is simple: Preventing people from living in poverty prevents suicides.

Despite the evidence, many seem reluctant to recognize the link between suicide and people’s inability to meet their basic needs... (MORE - details)
Magical Realist Offline
I have been fortunate enough to stay comfortably above the poverty line all my life. I can see how not having enough money can induce depression and even suicide. What can you do? The situation seems hopeless.
Zinjanthropos Offline
Not going to say exactly when but an in-law of mine committed suicide within the last 30 days. Wasn't first time trying. Upper middle class. Pandemic? I doubt it had much to do with this one.

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