In the report, which appeared Sunday on the Web site of The Lancet, a medical journal, researchers found that the rate between 2008 and 2010 increased four times faster than it did in the eight years before the recession. The rate had been increasing by an average of 0.12 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 through 2007. In 2008, the rate began increasing by an average of 0.51 deaths per 100,000 people a year. Without the increase in the rate, the total deaths from suicide each year in the United States would have been lower by about 1,500, the study said.
The finding was not unexpected. Suicide rates often spike during economic downturns, and recent studies of rates in Greece, Spain and Italy have found similar trends. The new study is the first to analyze the rate of change in the United States state by state, using suicide and unemployment data through 2010.
“The magnitude of these effects is slightly larger than for those previously estimated in the United States,” the authors wrote. That might mean that this economic downturn has been harder on mental health than previous ones, the authors concluded.
The research team linked the suicide rate to unemployment, using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Every rise of 1 percent in unemployment was accompanied by an increase in the suicide rate of roughly 1 percent, it found. A similar correlation has been found in some European countries since the recession.
The analysis found that the link between unemployment and suicide was about the same in all regions of the country.
The study was conducted by Aaron Reeves of the University of Cambridge and Sanjay Basu of Stanford, and included researchers from the University of Bristol, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of Hong Kong.