Suicides Are Markedly Increasing As Jobs Leave The U.S.

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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While companies moving headquarters overseas or across borders leaves some Americans out of work, recent research indicates that higher unemployment may be terminal for some.

Yale University economist Peter Schott, found that a 1 percentage point increase in unemployment correlated with an 11 percent increase in suicides.

Schott’s research examines the relationship between trade liberalization and unemployment, and how the unemployment rate affects rates of suicide and other causes of death. His research concludes that countries with higher exposure to trade, like the U.S., over time experience relative declines in manufacturing employment, as nations begin to trade more for goods they historically manufactured domestically.

The manufacturing industry is largely dominated by white men, leading the researchers to conclude that, “particularly among whites,” high exposure to trade “is associated with an increase in mortality due to suicide and related causes.” The scholars note that findings are consistent with group’s “relatively high unemployment in manufacturing.” Workers who have lost their job often turn to drugs and alcohol or are pushed to suicide, since they lack the community or familial resources to seek help, Schott explains.

While Schott and his colleague cannot prove a definitive link between job loss and suicide, they do contend that as jobs leave the U.S., suicides rise. In addition to correlations and anecdotal evidence, one physician may offer even greater insight into the possibility that job loss causes higher numbers of suicides.

Dr. Carlos Nordt, psychiatrist with the University of Zurich, examined the period from 2000 to 2011 across the globe, and found there had been an increase in the relative risk of suicide associated with unemployment of 20 to 30 percent. During that 11 year period, there were 233,000 suicides a year, of which around 45,000 could be attributed to unemployment. From 2007 to 2009, the period of the Great Recession, there was a 12 percent increase in suicides.

Bristol County, Massachusetts is a microcosm of what the current research depicts. Manufacturing in the county used to employ nearly 25 percent of the workforce. Today, it employs just one-in-ten workers. The decline in employment opportunities is met with a rise in suicides across the county. Bristol’s suicide rate spiked from five per 100,000 people in 2001 to 12 in 2015 — which is three higher than the state-wide average of nine.

Not all is doom and gloom, say some residents. “We’re reinventing ourselves,” says Tom Hoye, mayor of the city of Taunton in Bristol County. “It’s tough to lift yourself out of the hole sometimes. But we’re much better off than we were 10 years ago.”

Rising outrage at the growing number of American firms outsourcing labor overseas and fears of immigrants displacing American workers helped fuel President-elect Donald Trump’s historic victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The sentiment was felt and expressed more so in the industrial Midwest and South than anywhere else in the nation, areas that Trump won almost entirely.

To his credit, the president-elect champions many things that resonate with the concerns of those in the heart of America: economic growth, higher wages, less regulation, immigration reform, and, in general, an “America first” philosophy.

Trump pledges to impose trade restrictions on China, rip-up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and largely deregulate many aspects of the U.S. economy, including the manufacturing industry.

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