Fiscal Austerity and Suicide Rates

April 15, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

A study of data from five European countries found that government fiscal austerity measures (e.g. reductions in public sector salaries, pensions, and support for health care) is associated with increases in the suicide rate, especially for men in the 65-89 year age group. The analysis also suggested that unemployment benefits and government policies that prevent job loss can prevent suicides.

This research concluded that fiscal austerity measures in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal was associated with a 37 percent increase in suicides among males from 2009 to 2014. The authors claimed that 54 percent of suicides among men aged 65-89 during 2011-12 were due to fiscal austerity. They also concluded that “unemployment is the leading cause of youth suicide” in these countries. Younger people were found to derive the most protection from suicide from unemployment benefits while older workers gain the most protection from policies that protect jobs. The authors suggest that this is because older workers feel that they will not find another job once they have been laid off.

Fiscal austerity has less impact upon the suicide rate among women, although the rate of suicide among women in the 25-44 age group starts to rise a year after austerity policies are implemented.

This summary is based on: Antonakakis, N., & Collins, A. (2015). The impact of fiscal austerity on suicide mortality: Evidence across the Eurozone periphery. Social Science and Medicine, 145, 63-78.