Financial Problems Increase The Risk Of Suicide

Having debt can be stigmatizing and shameful and increases the risk of suicide. – We must talk about debt as a social problem, says researcher Yerko Rojas.

The financial sphere is a central part of our lives. If we don’t get that part of everyday life to work, it will affect us negatively.

He has researched how unpaid debt affects suicide risk in Sweden.

His latest research shows that people who have too much in loans compared to what they can pay run a two-and-a-half times higher risk of committing suicide compared to a sample from the Swedish population. 

– My results for suicide were independent of unemployment, welfare benefits, crime, depression, and mental disorders, he says.

That is to say, controlling for other factors, the results show that debt problems in themselves constitute a risk factor for suicide. 

Failure or success

Over 180,000 people were included in one of his registry studies. All those included were aged between 18 and 64 and owed money in the period between 2015 and 2017. In January 2018, they still had debts that had not been repaid. In the year that followed, 112 of the study participants took their own lives.

– In Sweden, we have a vision that no one should end up in such a vulnerable situation that suicide is seen as the only way out. Not being able to pay back debt has socio-historically been described as very difficult and painful. You feel there is something wrong with yourself and that it is your fault, says Rojas.

– We must approach this by talking about debt as a social problem, he says.

He believes this can be countered on several levels.

At the societal level, it is important to focus precisely on societal structures. We must not let this become a matter of individual failure or success.

Financial expectations

Countering taboos, stigma, and shame are important part of suicide prevention work.

Rojas believes that there is a strong moralism in Sweden around not paying the debt. You are expected to arrange this yourself.

– But there is a lack of understanding of how debt is linked to societal factors and unexpected events in life, he says.

Ending up with the bailiff can be very painful and difficult to deal with, he explains.

Har says that many people become lonely with their problems and do not talk to others about their debt. In the next phase, the financial problems can become so burdensome that it can prevent the individual from focusing on their psychological well-being and seeking help.

Helps to get a financial order

For those who manage to get out of financial disability, the risk of suicide will be reduced.

Rojas has shown in his research that suicide attempts decrease among those who get their finances in order. He compared those who had gotten rid of their debt after two years with those who were still struggling with debt. He then saw that the risk of suicide attempts was twice as great among those who still had debt after two years compared to those who were no longer in debt. 

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Rojas has thus investigated whether the suicide attempts could be explained by other known risk factors, but it is not possible to ignore the debt as a separate risk factor.

He emphasizes that it will be important to help people out of financial incapacity as soon as possible.