Suicide and depression are two major public health concerns in the world today, and the rate at which they occur has been on the rise. The United States alone accounts for about 47000 deaths due to suicide. Finding a lasting solution to this problem has been quite a challenge with therapy and counseling being the only viable option. However, researchers seem to think that higher minimum wage and robust paychecks can reduce depression and suicide rates.
Depression which is associated with suicide can develop due to a number of stressors that include problems with mental health, substance use, stressful and traumatic life experiences and other problems that may seem insurmountable to the affected person. Research has indicated that financial problems are also one of those stressors that can cause depression and suicide.
While a higher minimum wage has been linked to an improved quality of life and a robust economy, it appears that it may also help save lives. A number of studies have explored the effect of an increase in the minimum wage on depression and suicide rates and found a positive correlation.
A study published in March 2019 by a team of researchers measured how changes in state minimum wages affected suicide rates from 2006 to 2016 in the United States. The team made use of information from the state and federal minimum wage laws dataset to make their findings.
They found that a one-dollar increase in minimum wage can reduce annual state suicide rate 1.9% on average. According to the paper, this figure has remained consistent since 2011 up until the time of research, which means if there had been an increase in the minimum wage, 8000 fewer deaths would have been recorded.
The researchers took into consideration economic and health factors such as unemployment, State Medicaid spendings, and GDP per capita state. Although they suggested that an increase in minimum wage could be a valuable tool in reducing suicide rates, they admitted that their research still needs to look into a wide range of populace and factors such as the relationship between a higher minimum wage and suicide rate among low-income earners in different places and at different times.
According to a working paper by a group of economics researchers, a 10% increase in the minimum wage and earned-income tax credit (EITC) may prevent 1230 deaths by suicide annually. The EITC was introduced to improve the wages of low-income workers especially those who have children and families to cater to.
The report stated that low- income workers are the most affected by “deaths of despair” which means death that results from suicide, drug overdose and alcohol addiction among middle-aged white non-Hispanic Americans.
The team made this deduction from a death data analysis between 1995 and 2015 cumulated by the centers For Disease prevention and control (CDC). The researchers then proceeded to compare increasing and decreasing suicide rates in relation to an increase in minimum wage or EITC in various states within that same period (1995 and 2015). They also took note of states whose minimum wage or EITC remained unchanged.
From results obtained, the team found that an increase in minimum wage or EITC had little to no effect on the rate of deaths caused by drug overdose and alcohol abuse. However, they found that an increase in the minimum wage by 10% reduced suicide rates by 3.6 %.
The effect of higher minimum wage and EITC was more noticeable among young women who earned minimum wage and among black and Hispanic Americans. In the same vein, a 2014 study found that mothers who earned a higher EITC had better mental and physical health.
The latest research on higher minimum wage and suicide rates also reached a similar conclusion as previous studies. The paper which was recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health showed that a one-dollar increase in the minimum wage in the 2008 economic collapse could have prevented over 13000 deaths due to suicide.
The researchers evaluated the relationship between minimum wage laws and suicide rates and found a correlation that was more evident during periods of economic decline when the rate of unemployment is high.
The team began by taking note of the difference between federal and state minimum wage rates in the United States as it relates to unemployment and suicide rates between 1990 and 2015. People within the age group of 18 to 64 were used as a case study. They estimated a difference of $2200 between federal and state minimum wage per person.
However, in 2015 most of the states had made changes to their minimum wage rate and only 21 states didn’t. This gave the researchers an advantage to observe the “before and after effect” of a higher and lower minimum wage on suicide rates.
The researchers observed changes in suicide rates and found that people with college-level education were least affected while those with a lower level of education were the most affected. For those with a lower level of education aged 18 to 64 years, a 6% drop in the suicide rate for every dollar increase in minimum wage was estimated.
However, after taking a number of state economic factors into consideration, the effect was reduced to 3.5%.
The rates also increased and decreased based on the unemployment level. When the level of unemployment was below 4%, an increase in the minimum wage had little to no effect on suicide rates, but when it was above 6%, there was a significant drop in suicide rates. The strongest impact was recorded when the unemployment level was above 7% and minimum wages were higher than normal (about 1.75 dollars).
Although this research does not show a cause and effect relationship between high minimum wage and suicide rates, the team pointed out that an increase in the minimum wage may be a protective tool against factors such as stress and depression that contribute to suicide especially during periods of high unemployment.
POTENTIAL OF A HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE
Judging by the results of the studies discussed, it will appear that a higher minimum wage holds lots of potential in solving depression and suicide crisis. Although more research needs to be conducted to prove for a fact that a better paycheck can rule out depression and suicide possibilities, there is no denying the fact that an improved cost of living can positively affect an individual ‘s mental and general well-being which can help prevent the incidence of depression and suicide.