Impact of business cycles on US suicide rates, 1928-2007

Am J Public Health. 2011 Jun;101(6):1139-46. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2010.300010. Epub 2011 Apr 14.


Objectives: We examined the associations of overall and age-specific suicide rates with business cycles from 1928 to 2007 in the United States.

Methods: We conducted a graphical analysis of changes in suicide rates during business cycles, used nonparametric analyses to test associations between business cycles and suicide rates, and calculated correlations between the national unemployment rate and suicide rates.

Results: Graphical analyses showed that the overall suicide rate generally rose during recessions and fell during expansions. Age-specific suicide rates responded differently to recessions and expansions. Nonparametric tests indicated that the overall suicide rate and the suicide rates of the groups aged 25 to 34 years, 35 to 44 years, 45 to 54 years, and 55 to 64 years rose during contractions and fell during expansions. Suicide rates of the groups aged 15 to 24 years, 65 to 74 years, and 75 years and older did not exhibit this behavior. Correlation results were concordant with all nonparametric results except for the group aged 65 to 74 years.

Conclusions: Business cycles may affect suicide rates, although different age groups responded differently. Our findings suggest that public health responses are a necessary component of suicide prevention during recessions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Economic Recession / statistics & numerical data*
  • Economic Recession / trends
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide / trends
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Unemployment / trends
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult