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The increase in suicide is
particularly acute for older folks: Those aged 50-54 years saw their
rates increase from 20.6 per 100,000 to 30.7, a jump of 49.4%. For those
aged 55-59 years the rates increased by 47.8%. The rates for women,
although much lower than for men, also climbed: "Among women," the
report states, "suicide rates increased with age, and the largest
percentage increase in suicide rate was observed among women aged 60–64
years (59.7%, from 4.4 to 7.0)."
Is Wall Street's version of capitalism driving up our suicide rates?
really don't know why humans take their own lives. But we can get a
sense of what events correlate with increasing and decreasing suicide
rates. Ileana Arias, CDC deputy director, provides some suggestions:
is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide.
There may be something about that group, and how they think about life
issues and their life choices that may make a difference....The increase
does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of
families over the same time period."
Dr. Arias is
referring to research that shows a correlation between the rise of
suicide rates and economic hard times. For example a 2001 study
by sociologist Augustine J. Kposowa found:
three years of followup, unemployed men were a little over twice as
likely to commit suicide as their employed counterparts. Among men, the
lower the socio-economic status, the higher the suicide risk. Among
women, in each year of followup, the unemployed had a much higher
suicide risk than the employed. After nine years of followup, unemployed
women were over three times more likely to kill themselves than their
More Older Workers Join the Ranks of the Long-Term Unemployed
winner-take-all capitalism, if your job disappears during a massive
sustained job crunch, you will have a hard time finding another one. In
fact, the older you are, the more likely you are to enter the ranks of
the long-term unemployed (out of work a year or longer).
2008 Wall Street financial meltdown killed more than 8 million jobs in
matter of months. Reckless bankers, not the unemployed workers, caused
the destruction of jobs:
By the end of 2011 more than 31 percent of the total unemployed had been jobless for a year or longer, according to a Pew Trust study
It also found that "unemployed older workers were the most likely to have been jobless for a year or more."
that time, "more than 42 percent of unemployed workers older than 55
had been out of work for at least a year, a higher percentage than any
other age category."
But wait, doesn't egalitarian Scandinavia have even higher suicide rates?
decades, Scandinavia was known for its egalitarian economies and its
high suicide rates. In fact, for much of the post-WWII era, countries
with more egalitarian societies seemed to have suffered higher rates of
suicide. This led to a widely accepted narrative that described
countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden as having fundamentally flawed
socialistic economies that kill the desire to take risks and live
fully. Allegedly, their high taxes and cradle-to-grave social benefits
harm the most fundamental instincts to compete, to create and to thrive.
While some claimed the higher suicide rates came from the lack of
sunshine during the long northern winters, the dominant explanation
always centered on the evils of Scandinavian egalitarianism.
blaming egalitarianism no longer works since we now have a new leader
in suicides -- ruthless, American-style capitalism. The most recent
comparative suicide rate statistics
for all age groups and genders show that we have higher suicides rates than Scandinavia: (per 100,000 people) :
- Denmark 11.3
- Norway 11.9
- Sweden 11.9
- U.S. 12.0
If we singly out the male suicide rates, normally three times higher than the female rates, the U.S. clearly leads the pack:
- Denmark 15.3
- Norway 15.7
- Sweden 16.1
- U.S. 20.0
course, die-hard anti-socialists still could argue that Scandinavia has
become more capitalistic and unequal, while the U.S. is growing more
socialistic thereby lowering the Scandinavian suicide rates while
increasing ours. However, it's painfully obvious that American
inequality is growing more extreme by the day. If the anti-egalitarian
mythology were true, the U.S. should have the lowest suicide rates in
the world. So maybe, it's time to consider alternative explanations.
A counter-narrative to the egalitarian myth of suicide:
Street bankers and hedge fund managers gambled the economy into the
ground. Through mergers, acquisitions and leveraged buyouts they're
still creating and recreating a form of capitalism that throws millions
of older workers out on the street. To enrich themselves, financial
elites helped to destroy defined pension plans as well as unions, which
provide enormous protections for older workers. Wall Street also helps
companies load up on debt that can bankrupt the pension funds that still
exist. And now our financial barons are leading the charge for cuts in
Social Security and Medicare to pay for the damage Wall Street has done
to the economy. In short, the Wall Street version of capitalism makes
life enormously insecure for the many, while enriching the few.
you're a baby boomer who has spent a lifetime working hard, you could
be hurting if Wall Street destroys your job and wipes out your savings.
Because you are old, you could wind up lost among the long-term
unemployed without much of a chance of ever finding a job again. At the
very least, you are under a great deal of economic stress, the likes of
which very few Scandinavians would ever experience.
Do suicide rates go down when Americans fight back?
some scholars should test the following hypothesis: Do suicide rates in
America go down when empowering movements arise? Did the rate of
suicide among African Americans decline during the civil rights
movement? Did suicide rates among women and the LBGT communities also
decline as these movements emerged? Was there even a dip when Occupy
Wall Street took center stage?
In short, what would
happen to our overall feeling of self-worth if a major movement emerged
to take on the Wall Street plutocrats and their Washington enablers?
What if unemployed workers were part of a mass movement for jobs and
justice as they were in the 1930s? Wouldn't that make us feel more
Well, a national movement to take back our country from Wall Street sure would bring a smile to this boomer.
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