Sometimes when writing about the second great depression gets too dreary, we try to distract ourselves by reading the work of Melissa Lafsky, a science writer at Discover magazine’s blog. It usually a good way to get our minds off of the latest financial catastrophe.
But not today.
Today she is informing us that rises in unemployment similar to those in the current economic crisis increase homicide and suicide rates. Researchers at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have established the connection between unemployment and killing. In the upcoming edition of the Lancet, a very important medical science magazine, they will publish a paper titled “The Public Health Effect of Economic Crisis and Alternative Government Policy Responses in Europe: An Empirical Analysis.” Here’s what they find:
The authors looked at how economic changes have affected mortality rates in 26 European Union (EU) countries over the past three decades, and identified how governments might reduce adverse effects.
They found that for every 1% increase in unemployment, there was a 0.8% rise in suicide rates at ages younger than 65 years—or between 60 and 550 extra suicides per year across the EU. Murder rates also rose 0.8%. Both these effects were greatest at working ages…If unemployment rose by more than 3%, suicide rates for those aged under 65 rose by 4.5%, and deaths from alcohol abuse by 28%.
Well, that’s a bummer. Fortunately, it’s not a zero sum game. Traffic accidents decrease because of unemployment, partially off-setting the rise in killings.
“Always a glass-half-full bunch, those researchers,” Lafsky writes.
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