MONTREAL, Quebec — An alarming new study reveals rising suicide rates among men during economic downturns. Researchers from Canada and the United Kingdom say the comprehensive review underscores the critical need for government-funded health services to assist individuals during financial declines.
The study delved into the ramifications of financial crises on psychological well-being. Analyzing close to 100 papers focused on major economic events like the 2008 global crash, the research included vast national datasets and longitudinal studies, tracking the impact over time.
On top of the noticeable increase in suicide rates among men, while both genders experience poorer mental health, women also face a greater overall risk of adverse mental health outcomes compared to men.
“This review confirms the undeniable impact of national and international financial crises on population-level mental health and well-being,” says study lead author Deborah Talamonti, a researcher affiliated with the University of Montreal, in a media release. “The studies included in our review show the long-term repercussions of financial crises and highlight the crucial and urgent need for social support and welfare systems to safeguard the mental health of individuals.”
The review, examining 98 articles published worldwide up to Nov. 21, 2022, spanning financial events from 1990 to 2017, highlighted various economic crises’ impact on mental health factors. Suicide rates saw a marked increase during and after financial crises, predominantly affecting men. Employment types, particularly manual labor roles, emerged as contributing factors to this trend.
However, suicide attempts escalated for both men and women during these periods. The study revealed an association between rising unemployment and increased anxiety and depression levels. On the other hand, being employed didn’t necessarily shield individuals from mental illness, potentially due to elevated workloads and reduced income.
Financial crises were found to exacerbate gender disparities, impacting women as caregivers and men as primary breadwinners. Hospital admissions for mental health concerns surged, notably among women and individuals with lower incomes, while the demand for mental health services declined, particularly among the unemployed.
“What’s needed is enough funding from governments to reinforce health care systems, especially mental health services,” explains study senior author Mark Forshaw, a health psychology professor at Edge Hill University. “People will then get the support they need when countries are in financial meltdown. Education campaigns to empower people to identify potential symptoms and awareness-raising about the consequences of economic crashes are also required.”
There were limitations to the study, though, including the absence of recent research due to the dominant focus on the unique mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially skewing previous findings.
The study is published in the Journal of Mental Health.
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