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Online ISSN: 1099-176X    Print ISSN: 1091-4358
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Volume 10, Issue 4, 2007. Pages: 177-187
Published Online: 18 Dec 2007

Copyright © 2007 ICMPE.


 

Income, Employment and Suicidal Behavior

David E. Kalist,1 Noelle-Angelique M. Molinari,2* and Freddy Siahaan1

1Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, ShippensburgUniversity, Shippensburg, PA, USA
2Economist, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

* Correspondence to: Noelle-Angelique M. Molinari, 1600 Clifton Road NE MS E-62, Atlanta, GA, 30333, USA.
Tel.: +1-404-639-8874
Fax: +1-404-639-3266
E-mail: nmolinari@cdc.gov

Source of Funding: None declared. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Abstract

Using micro-level data from the first wave of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions 2001-2002, we estimated earnings and employment regressions to examine the effects of suicidal behavior on income and employment.  We used methods of IV estimation as well as two stage linear probability models to address potential endogeneity of suicidal behavior. Results indicated that suicide attempts and suicidal ideation negatively related to personal income and the probability of employment with effects differing by sex.  Men and women who attempted suicide had mean earnings lowered by 16 and 13 percent, respectively. This amount reflects the combined effect of suicidal behavior and mental illness. Controlling for endogeneity, the magnitude of effects became larger—up to 50 percent decrease in income of males who attempted suicide.  Thoughts of suicide negatively affected income to a smaller extent —attempted suicide was associated with 20 and 17 percentage point reduction in probability of fulltime employment for men and women respectively.

 

Background: Little is known about the labor market outcomes of people who have attempted suicide or thought about suicide.

Methods: We used micro-level data from the first wave of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions 2001-2002 to examine the effects of suicidal behavior on income and employment. The data provide a representative sample of the U.S. population, with its primary purpose to provide information on alcohol use disorders for the civilian non-institutionalized population aged 18 and over. The data include employment, income, and other socioeconomic and demographic information on respondents. Since the survey included 43,093 people, the data include a large number of respondents who attempted suicide or thought about committing suicide. We estimated earnings regressions and logit and ordered logit employment regressions. We used methods of IV estimation as well as two stage linear probability models to address potential endogeneity of suicidal behavior while estimating regressions separately by sex, since there are significant differences in suicide rates, suicide attempts, and suicidal ideation between men and women.

Results: We find that suicide attempts and suicidal ideation are negatively related to personal income and the probability of employment. The effects differ by sex. Men and women who attempted suicide had mean earnings lower by 16 and 13 percent, respectively. This amount reflects the combined effect of suicidal behavior and mental illness. With instrumental variable regression, the magnitude of the effects becomes larger-for example, as much as 50 percent decrease in the income of males who attempted suicide. Thoughts of suicide negatively affect income but to a smaller extent. Logit and ordered logit regressions indicate that attempted suicide reduces the probability of fulltime employment by over 20 percentage points for men and approximately 17 percentage points for women.

Implications: People who engaged in suicidal behavior reported significantly lower employment and earnings. Although data were insufficient to directly address the issue, it appears the effect may persist over a long period of time. This is particularly troubling since health insurance is closely tied to employment and without health insurance, treatment options may be limited.


Received 30 March 2007; accepted 15 October 2007

Copyright 2007 ICMPE