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Trends in suicide claims

1. Introduction The recent economic environment has led many to speculate that there has been an increase in suicide rates due to the economy. While it may be yearsbefore conclusive data is available for this economic downturn, historical data as well as a review of Swiss Re’s reinsurance data gives some insight into the current situation. This article examinessuicide rates and some of the statistics that are available in the public sector as well as from Swiss Re’s claims experience in the United States in order to give some insight into this manner of deathin light of our economy.


The economic downturn has given rise to questions about deaths due to suicide. Between 2007 and June, 2009, American net worth dropped from an all-time high of $64.4trillion1 to $50.4 trillion. In addition to the loss of net worth, unemployment in the United States has increased to a 20-year high of over 9%. Suicide rates vary by age, ethnicity, social status andgender, and overall suicide ranked as the 11th leading cause of death in the United States in 2006.2 While population statistics on suicide from 2008 won’t be available for another couple of years,speculation abounds about whether there has been an increase in incidences of suicide as a result of the recent financial crisis. Concerns that economic conditions may drive suicide rates are not new.Research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology3 suggests that for every percentage increase in unemployment, suicide deaths will increase approximately 1.3%. Similarly, Japanexperienced a rise in suicide deaths in the 1990s when this market experienced economic difficulties. An increase in suicide rates resulted as those who lost their jobs committed suicide for the insuranceproceeds to protect their family’s financial well being. According to John L.McIntosh, a professor of psychology at Indiana University, no link has been shown between recent national recessions and...