UK suicide rise linked to recession


LONDON – Recession and rising unemployment may have driven more than 1,000 people in England to take their lives, according to a scientific study published yesterday.

The study, which compared the number of suicides with those expected if pre-recession trends had continued, reflects findings elsewhere in Europe where suicide is also on the rise.

“This is a grim reminder after the euphoria of the Olympics of the challenges we face and those that lie ahead,” said David Stuckler, a sociologist at Cambridge university who jointly led the study, published in the British Medical Journal.

It found that between 2008 and 2010 there were 846 more suicides among men in England than would have been expected if previous trends continued, and 155 more among women.

Between 2000 and 2010 each annual 10 per cent increase in the number of unemployed people was associated with a 1.4 per cent increase in the number of male suicides, the study found.

Keith Hawton, a professor at the Centre for Suicide Research at Oxford university who was not involved in the study, said its findings were “of considerable interest and certainly raise concerns” but must be interpreted carefully.

“It is also important that they are not over-dramatised in a way that might increase thoughts of suicide in those affected by the recession,” he said.

Dr Stuckler, who worked with researchers from Liverpool university and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, stressed that while this kind of statistical study could not establish a causal link, the power of the associations was strong. Its conclusions were strengthened by other indicators of rising mental health problems, stress and anxiety, he added.

He also pointed out the study showed a small reduction in the number of suicides in 2010 which coincided with a slight recovery in male employment. – (Reuters)