Saturday, October 25, 2008

Suicide and Well-Being

Mary Daly and Daniel Wilson have written a number of papers about the economics of suicide. If you look at Figure 1 in their paper below "Happiness, Unhappiness and suicide: An empirical assessment" it confirms the idea that time trends in suicide and overall well-being are apparently unconnected. I have talked about this in several seminars for Ireland and have raised it as a puzzle but am frequently told that this is unsurprising. The paper below finds that the determinants of suicide at the micro level are very similar to the determinants of well-being and thus, they argue that suicide should still be viewed as a strong measure of utility. I am still curious though as to why this relationship does not hold at time series level.

paper link

1 comment:

Kevin Denny said...

I think its because the effect at the individual level is weak and/or discontinuous.A small number of people are potential suicides & lets say a fall in GDP, if thats the trigger, induces some to cross the threshhold. The aggregate variation in GDP will be huge relative to that in suicide.
Predicting rare events is intrinsically difficult. To give an example the number of people playing chess is probably related to the price of chess sets but what are the chances of picking that up from time series data?