Effect of Income Growth and Unemployment on Suicide Rate

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I. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Suicide, an act of intentionally causing one's own death, ranks as the tenth leading cause of death worldwide.  According to the World Health Organization, over one million people die by suicide every year. Furthermore, there are an estimated 10 to 20 million non-fatal attempted suicides every year worldwide. This phenomenon is even more compelling because, in many instances, suicides can be prevented. Policy makers in many countries have tried different preventive measures & engaged in joint projects to lower their suicide rates. Countries like China, Japan, Singapore, Australia & Pakistan have joined the project, Strategies to Prevent Suicide (STOPS), in order to lessen their increasing number of suicide. However, in trying to prevent the increase in number of suicide deaths and attempts, one must know what the leading causes of it are.

Suicide rates change over time, and the factors influencing them remain poorly understood. Economic factors, in particular unemployment & income growth, have been suggested as a major influence. History would tell us that economic factors really affect suicide rates. From 1928 to 2007, suicide rates has risen and fallen in tandem with the economy. It spiked at the onset of the Great Depression, fell during the expansionary World War II, rose during the oil crisis of the early '70s and the double-dip recession of the early '80s, and fell to its lowest level ever during the booming '90s. However, some studies about this have been inconsistent, which may be partly explained by shortcomings of the statistical methods used. 

In line with this, the researchers conducted a study to fully understand & prove that economics factors, especially income growth & unemployment, would really affect suicide rates. If considered, this would help Policy makers in forming and implementing laws and programs regarding the increase in suicide rates.

This paper uses a cross sectional data involving 16 countries in the year 2005 in studying the effect of economic factors in their suicide rates. The researchers considered the trend of unemployment & income growth variables. Results depend on the responsiveness of suicide rates with the changes in the unemployment rate & income growth.

II. REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Handful of researchers have relied on linking nationally collected data with other large data sets that do provide social and economic variables which are thought to be predicative of suicide. Platt (1984) on Unemployment and Suicidal Behavior suggested that macro-economic conditions, although not directly influencing suicide rate, may nevertheless constitute an important antecedent in the chain leading to self-harmful behavior. He indicated that unemployment was associated with an increased risk of completed suicide and attempted suicide, however; Platt’s interpretation of unemployment appeared to be associated with suicide only in so far as it relates to poverty or some other variable closely related to poverty. In line with this, Durkheim (1987) on Suicide: A Study in Sociology provided ambiguous results on how economic conditions are related to suicide rates. . According to him, man is under constant influence of physical or ecological factors and is positively or negatively influenced by these factors and commits suicide. This action is due to lack of resource availability that makes a man unhappy as his basic requirements are not fulfilled. In his classical work, he stated that any change in the variables, independently of its direction, is associated with increasing suicide rates. An additional is Altinanahtar’ and Halicioglu’s (2009) attempt to empirically examine the determinants of suicides in the case of Turkey using the time-series data for the period 1974-2007. In A Dynamic Econometric Study of Suicides in Turkey they proposed that the suicides in Turkey are related to some economic and social factors and they exhibit a...
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