In this news, we discuss the Suicide rates increase when natural disasters strike.
Suicide rates rise when natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes occur, confirms a team of researchers that examined the impact of 281 natural disasters on suicide rates over a 12-year period.
Disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes are occurring with increasing frequency and severity across the world. In addition to impacting local communities, infrastructure and the economy, these disasters can also cause severe emotional distress and anxiety for those who live in their path.
The researchers – including Jennifer Horney of the University of Delaware, founding director of the Epidemiology program at the College of Health Sciences – looked at data from disaster reports and found that suicide rates were up 23% from at pre and post disaster rates. Suicide rates have increased for all types of disasters, including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms, with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster, according to an article in The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention.
“This finding is important, I think, because it could be preventable deaths with better disaster preparedness and response,” Horney said. “It is particularly important to take into account the risk of suicide, as those who are more socially vulnerable live in areas where the risk of being damaged by a disaster is higher.”
Researchers examined counties in the continental United States with a single major disaster declaration between 2003 and 2015, based on data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For each county, suicide rates were estimated for three 12-month periods before and after the disaster. Although FEMA gives disaster reports for nine types of disasters, storms, floods, and hurricanes occurred frequently enough to be included in the study.
For all disaster types combined as well as individually for severe storms, floods and ice storms, the researchers found that the suicide rate increased in the first and second year after a disaster, then decreased in the third year. . The floods saw suicide rates rise nearly 18% in the first year and 61% in the second year before dropping back to the benchmark rate thereafter.
In contrast, the suicide rate from hurricanes rose in the first year – jumping 26 percent – and then returned to baseline in the second year. “The hurricane-affected counties saw the biggest increase in suicide rates in the first year, which makes sense as this is the most common type of disaster among those we looked at,” Horney said .
The study only looked at counties with a single disaster declaration and excluded those with multiple disaster episodes. Therefore, “this data likely underestimates the association between disaster exposure and suicide, because we know that repeated losses lead to many additional impacts on mental health,” said Horney.
The results suggest the need to make more mental health resources available to address the challenges that can arise after a natural disaster.
Suicide rates rise in natural disasters
Disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes are occurring with increasing frequency and severity