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Great Recession Cited for Increase in Middle-Aged Suicides

PHOTO: With the Great Recession leading to unemployment, foreclosures and other financial difficulties, there was also an increase in the number of middle-aged and older adults in the U.S. who took their own lives. Photo credit: KellyB/Flickr.
PHOTO: With the Great Recession leading to unemployment, foreclosures and other financial difficulties, there was also an increase in the number of middle-aged and older adults in the U.S. who took their own lives. Photo credit: KellyB/Flickr.
March 9, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - There's been a significant increase in suicides among middle-aged and older adults and it appears a portion of the rise can be attributed to the Great Recession.

A new study shows suicide rates in the U.S. for those aged 40 to 64 rose sharply from 2007 to 2010 and external economic factors were often present, such as job loss or home foreclosure. Those financial struggles often impact other areas of people's lives, says Pat McGovern, suicide prevention coordinator with the Iowa Department of Health.

"The Great Recession did effect so many people across the country," says McGovern. "Financial loss and job loss are some of the risk factors for suicide. So intuitively it does make sense, but it's good to actually see studies like this being done to scientifically show that connection."

Nationally, the number of people who die by suicide is now more than 40,000 per year, including around 450 in Iowa, with men about four times as likely as women to take their own lives.

In addition to the pressure from financial, legal and relationship issues, Dan Reidenberg, executive director with Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, says the vast majority of those who die by suicide have substance-abuse problems or underlying mental-health issues, such as untreated depression.

"We need people to recognize when somebody is really struggling," says Reidenberg. When their sleep patterns are off, when their eating patterns are off, when they're withdrawing from normal activities and when they talk about things such as 'My family would be better off without me' or 'My friends don't seem to care if I'm around anymore.'"

Those who are contemplating suicide or know someone who is can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA