Posts Tagged ‘suicides’

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More than 7 years into the current recovery and all the talk is about the number of jobs created, the falling unemployment rate, and the prospect that workers’ wages are set to finally increase on a sustained basis. Problem solved!

But what about the 1 in 6 American workers who were let go during the Great Recession, victims of the 40 million layoffs and other involuntary discharges during the official downturn that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009? Not to mention the fact that nearly 14 million people are still searching for a job or stuck in part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work.

As the Wall Street Journal reports,

Even for the millions of Americans back at work, the effects of losing a job will linger. . .They will earn less for years to come. They will be less likely to own a home. Many will struggle with psychological problems. Their children will perform worse in school and may earn less in their own jobs. . .

Only about one in four displaced workers gets back to pre-layoff earning levels after five years. . .A pay gap persists, even decades later, between workers who experienced a period of unemployment and similar workers who avoided a layoff. Estimates vary, but by one analysis, people who lost a job during recessions made 15% to 20% less than their nondisplaced peers after 10 to 20 years.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Workers who lost their incomes or received lower incomes if and when they found a new job have found it difficult to save and make purchases (and, in many cases, had to dip into what savings they had), own a home, send their children to college, and pay for healthcare.

Losing a job, of course, has more than just financial consequences for workers and their families.

Unemployment often is an isolating experience. A layoff can strip people of their identity as workers in a chosen field and their workplace-based social network of co-workers and other contacts. Researchers have linked job loss to stress, depression and feelings of distrust, anxiety and shame.

Alarming trends that emerged after the end of the 1990s economic boom may have been amplified by the latest recession. The death rate for middle-aged whites has been rising as a result of suicides, substance abuse and liver diseases, all potentially products of economic distress, according to research by economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton.

Data spanning the recession years show a link between high unemployment and increased abuse of painkillers and hallucinogens. The U.S. suicide rate climbed 24% between 1999 and 2014, a rise that accelerated after 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One study of Pennsylvania men who lost long-held jobs during the early 1980s found a spike in mortality following a layoff, with middle-aged men set to lose a year to 18 months off their lifespans.

Researchers have found that the children of people who lose their jobs perform worse on school tests and are more likely to repeat a grade. A father’s layoff is linked with a substantially higher likelihood of anxiety and depression in his children. In one study, the sons of men who were displaced from their jobs earned salaries that were 9% lower compared with otherwise similar children whose fathers had stayed employed.

And the list goes on.

What no one in charge seems to want to talk about is the fact that the economic trauma of the Second Great Depression “has left financial and psychic scars on many Americans, and that those marks are likely to endure for decades”—thus scarring not just millions of individuals and their families, but all of American society.

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While mainstream economists continue to discuss and debate their favorite topics—when to hike interest rates, the appropriate measure of capital, how to apply monetary rules, the outcome of debt negotiations in Europe, and much else—they never mention one obvious fact: capitalism kills. In particular, it kills babies and middle-aged people.

According to Alice Chen, Emily Oster, and Heidi Williams [pdf], capitalism kills babies. The United States, for example, ranks fifty-first in the world in infant mortality—comparable to Croatia, despite an almost three-fold difference in income per capita. But, as it turns out, it’s not differences at birth that explain the low ranking of the United States; it’s the high rate of postneonatal deaths. And that high rate (e.g., in comparison to Finland and Austria in the authors’ study) is “due entirely, or almost entirely, to high mortality among less advantaged groups. Well-off individuals in all three countries have similar infant mortality rates.” In other words, the high level of infant deaths in the United States are almost entirely a consequence of the grotesque levels of economic inequality that capitalism has created within the United States.

We also have to admit that capitalism kills middle-aged people. In a study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Katherine A. Hempstead and Julie A. Phillips found that suicide rates among middle-aged men and women in the United States have been increasing since 1999, with a sharp escalation since 2007. Their conclusion is that

Relative to other age groups, a larger and increasing proportion of middle-aged suicides have circumstances associated with job, financial, or legal distress and are completed using suffocation. The sharpest increase in external circumstances appears to be temporally related to the worst years of the Great Recession, consistent with other work showing a link between deteriorating economic conditions and suicide.

What’s the old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Well, in this case, preventing neonatal deaths and middle-aged suicides should start with eliminating capitalism.

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Greece has gone from tragedy to triumph—from the tragedy of austerity-induced suicides to the triumph of the anti-austerity landslide victory of Syriza.

So, before we get lost in the media hysteria of “radical leftists,” “firebrand” leaders, and jittery international financial markets, let’s be clear about what Greek voters rejected on Sunday.

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Greek workers rejected an austerity program that has led to a decline of more than 25 percent in Gross Domestic Product since 2007.

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They rejected an austerity program that cut government spending by almost 40 percent since 2009.

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They rejected an austerity program that led to a dramatic rise in unemployment—to 29 percent.

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They rejected an austerity program that led to a dramatic rise in unemployment among young people—to over 60 percent.

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And they rejected an austerity program that, in just one year (2013), led to a decline in real wages of 6 percent.

In other words, in decisively rejecting the austerity program, Greek voters have found a way to move beyond tragedy and to give an enormous electoral triumph to Syriza.

Assisted suicide

Posted: 18 September 2013 in Uncategorized
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Apparently, Stephen Hawking has come out in favor of assisted suicide—but only for “those who have a terminal illness and are in great pain.”

“There must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and are not being pressurised into it or have it done without their knowledge and consent as would have been the case with me.”

What about the nearly 5000 “extra” suicides that occurred as a result of capitalism’s latest crisis? Weren’t they pressured into and had it done without their knowledge and consent?

A study just published in the British Medical Journal confirms for a large number of countries (27 European and 27 non-European countries) what we knew from previous crises (such as 1997 economic crisis in Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong) and smaller samples (e.g., England, Italy, and the United States after 2008): capitalist crises cause people to take their own lives.

We found a clear rise in suicide after the 2008 global economic crisis; there were about 4900 excess suicides in the year 2009 alone compared with those expected based on previous trends (2000-07). There were important differences in men and women as well as in the age pattern in different groups of countries. The increases were mainly in men from the 27 European countries and 18 American countries studied. All age suicide rates in European and American men were, respectively, 4.2% and 6.4% higher in 2009 than expected if past trends had continued. In contrast there was no change in European women and a relatively smaller (2.3%) increase in American women. In European countries, the impact has been felt most strongly by men aged 15-24, while men aged 45-64 were most affected in American countries. Rises in national suicide rates in 2009 seemed to be associated with the magnitude of increases in unemployment, particularly for men and in countries with low unemployment levels before the crisis. Our finding is likely to be an underestimate of the true global impact of the economic crisis on suicide as some affected countries, such as Australia and Italy, were not included. The rise in the number of suicides is only a small part of the emotional distress caused by the economic downturn. Non-fatal suicide attempts could be 40 times more common than completed suicides, and for every suicide attempt about 10 people experience suicidal thoughts.

No matter what kind of recovery occurs in the coming years, the thousands of people who were assisted by the crisis in committing suicide won’t be around to experience the benefits.