Published: 9 August 2016 at 16:13
But data from 1960-2010 shows suicide rates increase during economic downturns
People live longer during economic recessions but the incidence of suicides and mental health problems increase, according to research published today by IZA World of Labor.
The paper, by Dr Nick Drydakis of Anglia Ruskin University, has investigated data from various national and regional studies carried out across Europe, Asia and the United States between 1960 and 2010.
The research found that for every 1% increase in the rate of unemployment, mortality rates fall on average by 0.5%. However, for every 1% rise in unemployment, suicides increase by an average of 1% (1.3% in the US and 0.9% in the EU).
Recent data shows that suicide rates in the US and the EU have been on an upward trend since the Great Recession of 2008, and the link between suicide and unemployment is strongest amongst the under 40s.
Unemployment or income loss is thought to result in adverse mental health symptoms because people are stripped of certain functions of employment such as a collective purpose, goals, physical security, social contact and status.
The reason for the fall in mortality rates during economic downturns is less clear. Recessions can provide time to allow people to lead a healthy lifestyle, by cooking their own food and exercising more, and research from the US suggests that motor vehicle deaths decrease during recessions, probably because fewer people commute to work.
However, some researchers believe the relationship between mortality rates and business cycles should be viewed over a longer time period. Adverse health consequences might not appear until the recovery phase is underway and the effects of increased alcohol or tobacco consumption, for example, could take several years to reveal themselves. Studies also fail to provide data on those directly affected by unemployment, but simply overall mortality rates.
Dr Drydakis, Reader in Economics at Anglia Ruskin University, said: