The headlines this morning are all reporting the same thing: suicides in the United States are climbing dramatically. The suicide rate rose 24 percent between 1999 and 2014 after a decade and a half of declines. Moreover, the increase accelerated to an average of 2 percent a year after 2006 from about 1 percent a year from 1999 through 2006. And, finally, the suicide rate also continued to climb in the first half of the 2015.
What the hell is going on?
According to Alex Crosby, chief of the surveillance branch of the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention,
Suicide rates have risen historically during difficult economic times, when job prospects diminish. The CDC tied increases in suicides to foreclosures on homes and evictions several years ago, he said.
In fact, according to a 2011 study in which Crosby participated,
the overall suicide rate generally increased in recessions, especially in severe recessions that lasted longer than 1 year. The largest increase in the overall suicide rate occurred during the Great Depression (1929–1933), when it surged from 18.0 in 1928 to 22.1 (the all-time high) in 1932, the last full year of the Great Depression. This increase of 22.8% was the highest recorded for any 4-year interval during the study period. The overall suicide rate also rose during 3 other severe recessions: the end of the New Deal (1937–1938), the oil crisis (1973–1975), and the double-dip recession (1980–1982). Not only did the overall suicide rate generally rise during recessions; it also mostly fell during expansions. For example, the overall suicide rate posted the sharpest decrease during World War II (1939–1945) and the longest decrease during the longest expansion period (1991–2001); during both of these periods, the economy experienced fast growth and low unemployment.
There’s a clear correlation between capitalist downturns and U.S. suicide rates—both historically and in recent years.
Sure, people kill themselves with guns—and with drug overdoses and alcohol poisoning and by suffocating themselves. But we’re forced to have the freedom to kill ourselves by the suicidal instability of the way our economic and social life is currently organized.