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Researchers have long been fascinated by the idea that people who spend too much time “keeping up with the Joneses” are only increasing their likelihood of suicide.For the first time, there’s concrete evidence to back up the theory.
Researchers from the San Francisco Federal Reserve found people who earn 10 per cent less than their neighbours are 4.5 per cent more likely to commit suicide.
While the effect was seen among high-earning individuals, the most vulnerable to this phenomenon are low-income people living amongst the wealthy.
Here are some of the financial factors that contribute to suicide:
Location, location, location. Poverty has been shown to increase suicide risk, but location plays a big role as well. Low-income individuals who lay down roots in wealthier communities are essentially setting themselves up for disaster. Not only do they have less cash to afford a higher cost of living –– health care, housing, and other expenses are typically higher in high-income areas –– but they’re basically living inside of the wealth gap. That all leads to an increased risk for suicide.
$34,000 is the misery line. If earning $75,000 annually is the benchmark for financial happiness –– earnings over that amount haven’t been shown to increase happiness in the long-term –– then consider $34,000 the new tipping point for financial misery. People who earned less than $34,000 were 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide, researchers found. People who earned between $34,000 and $102,000 increased their risk for suicide by only 10 per cent.
Unemployment. The secret to happiness may simply be having a 9-to-5. “We find that being unemployed or out of the labour force, for any reason, raises suicide risk relative to being employed,” the researchers write. Unemployed people, in fact, are 72 per cent more likely to commit suicide than people who are working. Retirees and people on leave from work also had higher suicide rates.
The study, “Relative Status and Well Being: Evidence from U.S. Suicide Deaths,” was based on data from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study and the National centre for Health Statistics’ Multiple Cause of Death Files, along with 1990 census data.
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