What is it about?

Suicide, like uncertainty, is the result of a complex interaction of a range of factors. The ultimate goal of the present study is to advance the research aimed at suicide prevention by evaluating the extent to which economic uncertainty can be used as an advanced indicator of increased suicide risk. Uncertainty is gauged by a global economic policy uncertainty index. Suicide rates from 183 countries between 2000 and 2019 are matched to annual economic uncertainty, controlling for unemployment and economic growth in a fixed-effects panel model.

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Why is it important?

The contribution of the study is threefold. - First, as Fountoulakis et al. (2014) noted, most research on suicide is based on samples from developed countries. The present study covers 183 countries, using the suicide mortality rates published by the WHO. - Second, rather than focusing on a cross-sectional analysis, the study takes into account the temporal dimension of the annual suicide rates for the period 2000–2019. With this aim in mind, we use a fixed-effects panel model to examine the relationship between economic uncertainty and suicide risk, controlling for unemployment and economic growth, and replicating the analysis for different regions. - Third, the study is the first to assess the effect of global economic uncertainty on suicide rates worldwide. Overall, the analysis suggests that increases in lagged economic uncertainty, as well as in unemployment and economic growth, may lead to an increased risk of suicide. When replicating the experiment for different regions of the world, the greatest impact of an increase in economic uncertainty can be found in Africa and the Middle East. Given the anticipatory nature of economic uncertainty regarding the evolution of economies, and its relationship with suicide rates, the results highlight the usefulness of uncertainty indicators as tools for the early detection of periods of increased suicide risk and the design of suicide prevention strategies.


Given the solid evidence that risk factors (both on a community and an individual level) are so diverse and that suicide can be prevented, it is imperative to design country-specific plans to improve the effectiveness of prevention strategies. Therefore, providing evidence of the preventive role that indicators of economic uncertainty may have in generating early signals of greater risk can be of great help for the design of suicide prevention strategies.

Oscar Claveria
AQR-IREA, Univeristy of Barcelona

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Global economic uncertainty and suicide: Worldwide evidence, Social Science & Medicine, May 2022, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.115041.
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