The economic despair of the Great Recession led to at least 10,000 extra suicides between 2007 and 2010, according to researchers who say that is a conservative estimate—and many of the deaths could have been prevented. The study of 24 EU countries, the US, and Canada found that the suicide rate rose in most European countries where they had been declining before hardship hit, and accelerated in the US, where it had already been climbing, the BBC reports. In New Zealand, one of the few industrialized countries unscathed by the financial crisis, the suicide rate didn't rise after 2007, the researchers note.
But there were some notable exceptions to the trend, which the researchers say show how suicides could be prevented during the next downturn. The suicide rate stayed flat in Austria, Finland, and Sweden, which were hit hard by the recession but have strong social programs in place to help people who have lost their jobs or are struggling financially. "The social welfare aspects of economic downturns like this can't be ignored," a Columbia University professor of epidemiology tells USA Today. "When our economic belts get a little too tight, we shouldn't be cutting things that help the average Joe." The study also found that the increase in the suicide rate was four times higher among men, a trend the researchers say could be because unemployment is a greater "status threat" for men, and could be changed with "greater gender equity in the workplace," the Los Angeles Times reports. (Read more recession stories.)