As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately one-third of the global population was under some form of lockdown or quarantine. The impact of the containment measures on the global economy is projected to dwarf the macroeconomic impact of the 2008-09 financial crisis in both magnitude and scope. Unprecedented proportions of the employment sectors in the USA and Canada filed for unemployment benefits. Statistics Canada reported, on April 9, 2020, that one-in-ten working-age individuals (i.e., fifteen years of age and over) in Canada lost their jobs or worked less than half their usual hours as a result of the widespread restrictions imposed in March 2020.
Suicide rates, at a population-level, are highly sensitive to macroeconomic indicators, particularly unemployment. It was reported that the rapid rise in unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is predicted to result in 3,235-8,164 excess suicides between 2020 and 2021, representing a 3.3-8.4% increase in suicides per year from the 2018 rate of 48,432 suicides in the USA. During the Great Recession, an increase in the number of suicides was also reported in Canada. Previous findings were replicated and extended to project the number of excess suicides in Canada as a consequence of the impact of COVID-19 on unemployment.
Macroeconomic indicators, notably unemployment, are significant moderators of suicide. It’s projected the number of excess suicides in Canada as a consequence of the impact of COVID-19 on unemployment. Annual suicide mortality (2000-2018) and unemployment (2000-2019) data were derived from Statistics Canada. Time-trend regression models were used to evaluate and predict the number of excess suicides in 2020 and 2021 for two possible projection scenarios following the COVID-19 pandemic: 1) an increase in unemployment of 1.6% in 2020, 1.2% in 2021, or 2) an increase in unemployment of 10.7% in 2020, 8.9% in 2021. A percentage point increase in unemployment was associated with a 1.0% increase in suicide between 2000 and 2018. In the first scenario, the rise in unemployment rates resulted in a projected total of 418 excess suicides in 2020-2021 (suicide rate per 100,000: 11.6 in 2020). In the second scenario, the projected suicide rates per 100,000 increased to 14.0 in 2020 and 13.6 in 2021, resulting in 2114 excess suicides in 2020-2021. These results indicate suicide prevention in the context of COVID-19-related unemployment is a critical priority. Furthermore, timely access to mental healthcare, financial provisions and social/labour support programs, as well as optimal treatment for mental disorders is urgently needed.