Austerity Kills: Economic Distress Seen as Culprit in Sharp Rise in Suicide Rate Among Middle Aged

Published on naked capitalism, by Yves Smith, March 1, 2015.

I’m surprised, but perhaps I shouldn’t be, that a recent study hasn’t gotten the attention it warrants. It points to a direct connection between the impact of the crisis and a marked increase in suicide rates among the middle aged. This link seems entirely logical, given how many citizens found themselves whacked by a one-two punch of job loss or hours cutbacks combined with the sudden plunge in home prices. Normally, a last ditch course of action for most middle and upper middle class income members in the pre-crisis days, when things got desperate, was to sell you house and cut costs radically by moving into a much more modest rental. But that option vanished in all but the most stable markets (as in some flyover states that the subprime merchants ignored) due to home price declines trashing equity for all but those with small or no mortgages.  

And you have the further psychological toll of the difficulty of re-inventing yourself if you are over 35. I can point to people who had enough in the way of resources and took steps that seemed entirely logical, taking courses to prepare them for a new career in fields with good underlying demand (see this post for one example; I can cite others) and got either poor returns on their expenditure of time and effort or had no success at all.

And the ones with enough options (bigger savings buffers or relatives who were willing and able to help) are the lucky ones. For all too many middle to upper middle income workers in America, when you fall off the corporate/big firm meal ticket, the fall is far indeed. As readers know all too well, the prejudice against older candidates as well as the unemployed is substantial, even if the reason for the job loss in no way reflected on employee performance (as in business failure or working for an acquired company when, in typical practice, the buyer went through the ranks of the purchased business with a howitzer). People who thought that having a college degree and a steady history of good performance at white collar jobs gave them a measure of security had that illusion ripped from them … //

… It’s hard to imagine that suicides haven’t risen further. With the Greek economy continuing to contract, more have to have run out of resources and hope.

Even though economic distress is less acute in the US, there’s reason to think our society is even more vulnerable to suicide. We have much greater income stratification, so that even if someone can remain in his home after a large setback, he’s almost certain to be unable to afford to participate in the same social activities as his supposed friends can. And America is particularly bound up in the idea of career and financial success, seeing those who take a tumble as losers rather than victims.

This well-intentioned section of the Science write-up thus comes off as naive:

The authors caution that “increased awareness is needed that job loss, bankruptcy, foreclosure, and other financial setbacks can be risk factors for suicide. Human resource departments, employee assistance programs, state and local employment agencies, credit counselors, and others who interact with those in financial distress should improve their ability to recognize people at risk and make referrals. Increasing access to crisis counseling and other mental health services on an emergency basis, as is often provided at times of natural disaster, should also be considered in the context of economic crises.”

Um, HR departments are concerned solely with liability avoidance. And some parties like debt collectors seek to increase the psychological pain of those who are in economic trouble as part of their business model.

As Lambert often says about neoliberalism, one plank in the model is for old people to die faster, and higher suicides speed that process along. It’s not easy to make the smug and the abusive feel ashamed of their conduct, since they are confident they’d never wind up as losers, when the reality is that the odds are much higher than they dare imagine.

(full text).

capitalism-poor related Links:

Other Links:

Half of the Studies Find Cause For Concern … The Other Half Are Studies By the GMO Food Industry Itself, on Washington’s Blog, by blog owner, March 1, 2015;

Teen Faces 55 Years For Murder When He Never Killed Anyone, 7.56 min, uploaded by TYT The Young Turks, Feb 28, 2015;

Family Feud: The Tortured Relationship between Schäuble and Varoufakis, on Soiegel Online International, by Nikolaus Blome, Christian Reiermann and Alexander Smoltczyk, Feb 27, 2015: Athens relented in the end. But prior to the compromise deal allowing for an extension of Greece’s bailout program, Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis and his German counterpart Schäuble engaged in a bitter battle for supremacy …;

Erdogan and women, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Sayed Abdel-Meguid from Ankara, Feb 26, 2015: Women in Turkey are standing up for their rights after the brutal murder of a rape victim;

Switzerland: An important contribution to our power supply and to the independence of our country, on Current Concerns, an Interview with National Councillor Jakob Büchler, President of the “Interessenverband Schweizerischer Kleinkraftwerks-Besitzer” ISKB, Feb 22, 2015: on the importance of small hydro power plants;

WW3 Simulation (Russia & Asia versus USA/Canada & Europe) DEFCON, 12.49 min, uploaded by Maurice Perkins, Feb 21, 2015: on en.wikipedia: defense readiness condition DEFCON is an alert state used by the United States Armed Forces;

… and this:

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