Suicide, Age, and Wellbeing: An Empirical Investigation

43 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2015 Last revised: 24 Jun 2015

See all articles by Anne Case

Anne Case

Princeton University - Research Program in Development Studies; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Angus Deaton

Princeton University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: June 2015

Abstract

Suicide rates, life evaluation, and measures of affect are all plausible measures of the mental health and wellbeing of populations. Yet in the settings we examine, correlations between suicide and measured wellbeing are at best inconsistent. Differences in suicides between men and women, between Hispanics, blacks, and whites, between age groups for men, between countries or US states, between calendar years, and between days of the week, do not match differences in life evaluation. By contrast, reports of physical pain are strongly predictive of suicide in many contexts. The prevalence of pain is increasing among middle-aged Americans, and is accompanied by a substantial increase in suicides and deaths from drug and alcohol poisoning. Our measure of pain is now highest in middle age—when life evaluation and positive affect are at a minimum. In the absence of the pain epidemic, suicide and life evaluation are likely unrelated, leaving unresolved whether either one is a useful overall measure of population wellbeing.

Suggested Citation

Case, Anne and Deaton, Angus S., Suicide, Age, and Wellbeing: An Empirical Investigation (June 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21279, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2621334

Anne Case (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Research Program in Development Studies ( email )

Woodrow Wilson School
345 Wallace Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States
609-258-2177 (Phone)
609-258-5974 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Angus S. Deaton

Princeton University ( email )

Woodrow Wilson School
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States
609-258-5967 (Phone)
609-258-5974 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~deaton

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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