The Unexamined Life

Giving People Extra $1 May Help Prevent Suicide, Study Says

Giving people just a $1 increase in their salary may help them avoid suicide. A new study found that a small adjustment in minimum wage could help people address financial stressors that contribute to suicide risk. 

The number of people who took their own lives increased by more than 30 percent in half of all states in the U.S. between 1999 and 2017. Two years ago, the government recorded more than 47,000 preventable suicide deaths.

Financial issues contributed to many of recorded cases of suicide. However, there is little information on how economic interventions play a role in the issue. 

To help address suicide rates in the U.S., researchers focused on wage policies in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. They also looked into state unemployment and suicide rates among adults, aged 18 to 64.

The team observed changes in figures every month from 1990 to 2015. In that period, state governments made 478 changes in minimum wages. 

During the 26-year study, 399,206 people with high school education or less took their own lives compared with 140,176 people with a college degree or higher. However, the researchers noted that suicide rates declined in states where minimum wage increased. 

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, shows that there was a 3.5 to 6 percent decrease in suicide cases for every dollar increase in the minimum wage among people with high school education or less. The positive effect of salary increase was strongest during periods of high unemployment.

After 2009, when the U.S. experienced financial crash and significantly high unemployment, giving a $1 dollar increase to people could have prevented 13,800 suicides. Giving another $2 increase in minimum wage could have saved 25,900 people. 

"Our findings are consistent with the notion that policies designed to improve the livelihoods of individuals with less education, who are more likely to work at lower wages and at higher risk for adverse mental health outcomes, can reduce the suicide risk in this group," the researchers said in a statement. "Our findings also suggest that the potential protective effects of a higher minimum wage are more important during times of high unemployment."

dollar A new study found that a $1 dollar adjustment in minimum wage could help people reduce their suicide risk. Pixabay

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