Economic Recession, Alcohol, and Suicide Rates: Comparative Effects of Poverty, Foreclosure, and Job Loss

William C. Kerr, Mark S. Kaplan, Nathalie Huguet, Raul Caetano, Norman Giesbrecht, Bentson McFarland

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Abstract

Introduction: Suicide rates and the proportion of alcohol-involved suicides rose during the 2008-2009 recession. Associations between county-level poverty, foreclosures, and unemployment and suicide rates and proportion of alcohol-involved suicides were investigated. Methods: In 2015, National Violent Death Reporting System data from 16 states in 2005-2011 were utilized to calculate suicide rates and a measure of alcohol involvement in suicides at the county level. Panel models with year and state fixed effects included county-level measures of unemployment, foreclosure, and poverty rates. Results: Poverty rates were strongly associated with suicide rates for both genders and all age groups, were positively associated with alcohol involvement in suicides for men aged 45-64 years, and negatively associated for men aged 20-44 years. Foreclosure rates were negatively associated with suicide rates for women and those aged ≥65 years but positively related for those aged 45-64 years. Unemployment rate effects on suicide rates were mediated by poverty rates in all groups. Conclusions: Population risk of suicide was most clearly associated with county-level poverty rates, indicating that programs addressing area poverty should be targeted for reducing suicide risk. Poverty rates were also associated with increased alcohol involvement for men aged 45-64 years, indicating a role for alcohol in suicide for this working-aged group. However, negative associations between economic indicators and alcohol involvement were found for four groups, suggesting that non-economic factors or more general economic effects not captured by these indicators may have played a larger role in alcohol-related suicide increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2016

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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