Study finds link between Great Recession, increase in suicide among middle-aged Americans

    The Great Recession that started in 2007 and lasted for several years years may have led to a jump in suicide rates among people between the 40 and 64, according to new research.


    The suicide rate among middle-aged people in the U.S. has increased by 40 percent over the last 15 years.

    To investigate a possible connection to the recession, researchers at Rutgers University used data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, which offers insight into contributing circumstances around suicides.

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    With middle-aged people, external economic factors were present in 37 percent of suicides in 2010, said Rutgers sociology professor Judy Phillips who conducted the study. She said job loss is especially difficult for this group.

    “Those who are in middle age are most likely to be the breadwinner in the family, and so loss of job and financial difficulty is going to be especially devastating,” she said. “They also have dependents, both children and often supporting parents.”

    Katherine Hempstead of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partnered with Phillips in conducting the research. She said the findings could mean getting a new set of people involved in suicide prevention.

    Human resource “departments at corporations, people involved in consumer credit, or mortgage or unemployment benefits should know that this could be a risk factor for suicide,” she said. “They should refer people to mental health services and counseling if it seems like they are really under duress.”

    Hempstead says economic factors were more likely to play a role with middle-aged men than women.

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