Americans are dying by their own hands for want of a Universal Basic Income (UBI).
According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45,000 Americans took their own lives in 2016. Often times, money problems played significant role.
“Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but suicide is rarely caused by any single factor. In fact, many people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Other problems often contribute to suicide, such as those related to relationships, substance use, physical health, and job, money, legal, or housing stress.”
— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Researchers are beginning to link the 10th leading cause of death to financial problems. In fact, the evidence is difficult to dismiss.
A UBI may directly help to prevent up to some 20% of deaths by suicide. It may indirectly improve many more situations.
Joblessness, UBI and Dying
According to researchers at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, individuals who experienced a “major financial crisis” within the previous six months, were nearly eight times more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Those with multiple debts or unemployed were at an even higher risk.
There is a strong correlation between suicide rates and unemployment, especially at midlife.
A University of Maine study found as joblessness rose, suicide rates also climbed. The 2006 housing crisis provides a real world example, with scores of people losing jobs or threatened with unemployment. The suicide rate quadrupled from 2008 to 2010 as a result, with the two-year lag most likely due to the delay for the meltdown to negatively impact personal wealth. The stress of financial uncertainty has a “direct human fallout” according to researchers.
A more sobering statistic hails from international rates from the global mortgage meltdown. For every successful suicide, 30 t0 40 people attempted to kill themselves. In the US, 1.3 million people made at least one attempt.
Dying, UBI as Suicide Prevention
Lessons from the Great Recession show that countries which maintained their social safety nets had better health outcomes than those practicing austerity. A progressive approach by Germany, Iceland and Sweden focusing on stimulus had better results for its citizens. Those living in Greece, Italy and Spain did not fare as well.
It also makes financial sense. A UBI in place of public assistance would cost 25% of current entitlement programs. Suicides cost $93.5 billion, according to the National Institutes of Health. Any reduction in this figure would be an added benefit in the savings.
If the first responsibility of a government is the survival of its people, then preventable deaths should be at the forefront of the discussion. A UBI, or fixed payment for every citizen, would provide a social safety net in times of economic uncertainty or market downturns.