Thursday, September 03, 2009

Ireland Suicide Report

The pdf of the report referred to by Kevin is below. It contains very valuable information on time trends, age composition, methods of suicide and related information. Looking at the basic time series of suicide should give people making exaggerated claims about the likely impact of the recession on suicide some pause for thought. Certainly, risk factors for some groups will be increasing and in particular cases alarmingly so. But in general, the evidence on gdp and suicide is very mixed as can at least partly be seen by the fact that suicides were so high during the Irish economic boom.

link here


Kevin Denny said...

At the risk of being contrary...who cares about the cyclicality of suicide? Aside from the issue thats its unclear whether there are macro' effects, are there any benefits from knowing about such patterns? It is not as if the government is going to change macro' policy because of the risks to suicide. Its an interesting theoretical issue, perhaps, and one that economists are naturally drawn to. Does it help mental health professionals working in this area? I guess we need to ask them but I doubt it, offhand.

Peter Carney said...

Isn't contrary examination part of the job description?

I reckon the identification of non-structural cyclical movements or randomness isn't really interesting but identifying structural or causal cyclical movements would be of interest to mental health professional and policy creators who wish to understand and mitigate hazards to individuals.

I just glanced at the figures and graphs in the full report. One thing that struck me was the apparent Mediterranian\Oceanic factor in total EU population rates. Greece, Malta, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, UK, Ireland all appear fairly consistently at the lower end of the EU scales; with France as an exception. Is there any established or suggested theory for this phenomenon?

Liam Delaney said...

its a very interesting question and in fact something I would like to answer is a far more lengthy way. i think the extent to which economic fluctuations impact on suicidal behaviour is an interesting question for many reasons. But it is the channels we should be thinking about as this is what will utlimately guide practice. For example, we still don't know fully why the male suicide rate increased so much in Ireland during the economic boom. May have been drink, may have been drugs, may have rapid occupational change, more unstable family life, more relationship breakdowns among young people. If we could know this, it would help us understand more the link between the economy and intense psychological distress. Similarly, we do want to know now who is at risk of serious psychological distress (not just suicide behaviour) as the economic contracts so rapidly. What will be the impact on people who are squeezed very heavily by job loss and negative equity, or by insolvency. I would need a lot more time to flesh this out but, for example, I do think mental health researchers need to think more about issues such as how wealth reductions affect health care financing late of life and whether this may make some older people likely to contemplate suicide. Or how job loss affects the solvency and debt patterns of young men who are separated and whether this can lead to suicide ideation. These are subsets of the questions but they alone are interesting questions.

Liam Delaney said...

Peter - one story is the religion one that you are going to be talking about in the journal club. You should probably separate out Ireland and UK though from the other five.