Around the time of recession rocked the United States, its population experienced a disturbing shift: Today, suicide takes more American lives than any other form of injury.
Between 2000 and 2008 motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death by injury, but suicide surpassed car crashes in 2009, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health. The switch is the culmination of a decade-long trend; the rate of death by suicide increased by 15 percent over the past ten years, while the unintentional motor vehicle crash death rate dropped by 25 percent during that same period.
The study didn’t specifically factor in economic conditions, but many have speculated that the downturn may be responsible for a boost in suicides in America and around the world. In Greece, the suicide rate for men rose by 24 percent between 2007 and 2009, according to The New York Times. Suicides motivated by economic crisis grew by 52 percent in Italy in 2010.
In England, unemployment may be tied to more than 1,000 suicides, according to a recent paper in the British Medical Journal.
In the U.S. the correlation between the boost in suicides the current economic downturn hasn’t been definitively established, but the rate of suicides in America did increase during past periods of economic crisis, like the Great Depression, the 1970s oil crisis and the recession in the 1980s, according to data from the Center for Disease Control cited by the Washington Post.
Tragically, there are plenty of anecdotal examples of “economic suicide” in the country. A Tennessee man lit himself on fire earlier this year after finding out he wouldn’t be getting financial help from a private organization. And in May, a California man shot and killed himself in the midst of a legal battle with Wells Fargo, while he faced the prospect of foreclosure.