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An empirical investigation of the relationship between business performance and suicide in the US

Rawayda Abdou, Damien Cassells, Jenny Berrill and Jim Hanly

Social Science & Medicine, 2020, vol. 264, issue C

Abstract: Previous research suggests that mortality rates behave pro-cyclically with respect to economic growth, with suicides representing a notable exception that consistently increase in economic downturns. Over recent years, there is ample evidence in the literature that the working environment in the US has deteriorated significantly, suggesting that suicide rates may not necessarily behave in a counter-cyclical manner with business performance. Utilising recent suicide data, this study empirically tests the hypothesis that adverse working conditions over recent years may have resulted in a pro-cyclical relationship between business performance and suicide. Unlike previous studies, we use a stock market index, a leading macroeconomic indicator, to measure economic conditions from a business perspective. We employ the Autoregressive Distributed Lag (ARDL) co-integration methodology to study the long-run relationship between monthly S&P500 stock market data and age and gender-specific suicide rates during the period January 1999 to July 2017. Our results highlight substantial differences in age groups responses to fluctuations in business performance. We find a clear positive association between business performance and suicide rates for the youngest males and females aged 15–34 years, indicating that there is a human cost associated with improved business performance. Additionally, we investigate the association between economic insecurity, a unique aspect of the recent deterioration in the working environment, using the Implied Volatility Index “VIX” and age and gender-specific suicide rates. Our findings do not support a population-wide adverse impact of economic insecurity on suicide incidences. The exception was males aged 15–24, and females aged 55–64 for whom we find a significant positive association. Teaching work-life management and problem-solving skills to manage everyday work stressors may be important strategies to mitigate the psychological cost of business successes.

Keywords: Suicide; Stock market fluctuations; Economic conditions; Business performance; Economic insecurity; Psychological work stressors (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113256

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