Psychological impact of recession 'severe'

  • Deborah Condon

The Government must respond to the link between unemployment and suicide, Fine Gael has said.

According to the party's mental health spokesperson, Dan Neville, the potential psychological impact of an economic recession on public health can be severe. In fact, research dating back as far as the 1890s demonstrates that suicide and mental illness increase at times of recession, and that suicide is linked to financial disasters.

"People who are unemployed are two to three times more likely to die by suicide than those in employment. This high rate is partly because people with psychiatric illnesses are at a greater risk of losing their jobs.

"However, even among people with no record of serious mental illness, unemployment is associated with a 70% greater suicide risk. Prospective individual level studies show that unemployment has a causal influence on depression and suicidal thinking," Mr Neville explained.

He pointed out that job insecurity is associated with a 33% greater risk of common mental disorders, mainly anxiety and depression, and people with mental disorders are more likely to be in debt than those who have no mental disorders.

In Hong Kong, 24% of all suicides in 2004 concerned people in debt.

Mr Neville also noted that alcohol consumption increases during a recession and this usually correlates with suicide figures. For example, in Ireland in the 1990s, there was a 44% increase in alcohol consumptions and a 41% increase in suicide.

"An analysis of suicide rates in Latvia during a period of massive economic and social change showed that the sudden decline in GDP was associated with a rapid increase in suicide. In Russia, mortality, especially suicide, increased substantially after the economic crisis in 1989," Mr Neville said.

He called on the Government to recognise that the level of suicide and suicidal behaviour is a serious social health issue that must be comprehensively dealt with by putting the necessary services in place.

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