Researchers who have stated that some 10,000 extra suicides occurred during the Great Recession have also noted that this number is actually a conservative estimate.
The report, which appears in the British Journal of Psychiatry, notes that at least 10,000 more suicides occurred during the years of the Great Recession than previously existing suicide trends predicted.
While the number of actual suicides that occurred during 2007 and 2010 might be higher, researchers also note that many of these deaths could have been prevented.
To obtain these statistics, researchers conducted a study of 24 EU countries, the U.S. and Canada.
What they found was that suicide rates increased drastically in the same European countries in which they had been declining before the recession hit.
The BBC reports that in the U.S., too, suicide rates rose during the Great Recession; suicide rates in the U.S. had, however, already been climbing in the years before the recession.
New Zealand stands as an exception to many of the trends witnessed during the financial crisis: researchers note that the country was one of few industrialized countries untouched by the crisis, and that suicide rates did not rise after 2007.
Interestingly, Austria, Finland and Sweden –all of which were hard hit by the recession – also didn’t see increases in their suicides rates, which prompted researchers to note that these countries displayed a strong precedent on preventing suicides in the next period of financial downturn.
These three countries have strong social programs set up to help people who have lost their jobs, and who are struggling financially.
As a Columbia University professor of epidemiology said, “The social welfare aspects of economic downturns like this can’t be ignored.”
“When our economic belts get a little too tight, we shouldn’t be cutting things that help the average Joe,” the professor added.
As NPR reports, although a correlation between economic turmoil and increased suicides rates was observed, this did not necessarily indicate a causal relationship: the numbers do not prove that the people who lost their homes and/or jobs were the ones who committed suicide.
An examination of the way suicide affected each gender indicated that suicide rates were four times higher amongst men than amongst women.
Researchers attribute this trend to the fact that unemployment could be perceived as a greater “status threat” for men than for women.