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Do downturns cause desperation? The effect of economic conditions on suicide rates in Canada

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There is conflicting evidence concerning the impact of macroeconomic conditions on suicide rates. To help resolve this pertinent question, we present evidence using Canadian data. We estimate feasible generalized least squares models of annual gender-specific suicide rates in the working age population (aged 25–64) using data from each of the 10 Canadian provinces over the period 1982 to 2007. We allow for heteroscedasticity across provinces and first-order autocorrelation common to all provinces. We posit that suicide rates in this population are a function of macroeconomic conditions (current and lagged unemployment rates and real per capita GDP) and other determinants that might be correlated with macro conditions, such as physician supply. We find that different factors affect suicide rates across genders and that some of the results are sensitive to the specification of the model we use and the regressors included. Generally, economic conditions affect men more than women; suicide rates are counter-cyclical and a higher supply of psychiatrists in a province is correlated with lower suicide rates.
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Keywords: I18; I19; business cycle; macroeconomic conditions; physician supply; suicide

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Economics, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G1 2: Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3M2

Publication date: 2014-04-03

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