Study: Suicide rates may increase as result of financial strain from COVID-19

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- Eric Elbogen, a professor at Duke University in the department of psychiatry said the country could see a dramatic increase in suicide rates going forward.

His recent study, Financial Strain and Suicide Attempts in a Nationally Representative Sample of US Adults, credits that potential increase to the financial strains of COVID-19. Dr. Elbogen said suicide rates increased during the Great Depression as well as the 2008 recession and expects a similar outcome as a result of the current economic downturn.

“Most people that have financial strain did not report attempting suicide or having suicidal thoughts. the study, it nevertheless shows that it still elevates the risk,” said Dr. Elbogen.

The study found people experiencing unemployment, homelessness, debt or bankruptcy and lower incomes were 20 times more likely to attempt suicide.

Those factors have become increasingly prevalent in the wake of the pandemic.

“Given that all of those are magnified in the context of the current this pandemic, it’s going to be important for policy makers to prevent suicide rates from rising by bolstering financial well being,” Dr. Elbogen said.

Getting help

If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Locally, the HopeLine offers a crisis line with support for those experiencing thoughts of self-harm, grief, domestic violence and other kinds of stressors. You can call or text them at 919-231-4525 or 877-235-4525.

Suicide on the rise

Dr. Elbogen said it’s an increasingly important topic because suicide has been on the rise for the last decade.

Information from the CDC, showed nationally, the suicide rate among people aged 10 to 24 was stable from 2000 to 2007. That changed between 2007 and 2020 when the suicide rate increased by 56 percent.

SOURCE: NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality

That same report, found the suicide rate for children aged 10 to 14 nearly tripled from 2007 to 2017. For people, aged 15 to 19 suicide rates increased 76 percent during that same time frame.

Data from showed North Carolina’s suicide rates were close to national rates. In 2019, the rate was 14.8 per 100,000 population in the state. That’s compared to the national rate of 14.5 per 100,000 population.

Click the image to enlarge.

That report found suicide rates were higher among whites and men in North Carolina.

Mitigating Risks

Dr. Elbogen said financial well-being is tied to mental well-being. Both need to be addressed in order to make lasting systemic change.

“On one hand, income support or getting a job might be enough but if people misuses that money, people can still go into debt, and risk becoming homeless which this study shows would increase risk of suicide,” said Dr. Elbogen.

That’s why the professor said job creation, vocational training, housing relief, financial education is key in mitigating these risk factors.

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