As negative social mood intensifies and the stock market falls, suicide rates tend to increase. Positive social mood, on the other hand, generally produces declining rates of suicide.
There are a few exceptions to this pattern, such as the increase in suicide during the latter part of the booming 1920s, although this data may be unreliable because statistics before 1933 don't include all states and weren't gathered uniformly. Two other exceptions were falling stock prices accompanied by falling suicide rates from 1937 to 1942, and a slight increase in suicide during the rising market from 1980 to 1986, as noted by the Elliott Wave Financial Forecast in 2004.
What is more clear is that record or near-record highs and lows in suicide rates occur at major peaks and valleys in the stock market. Intense social mood, both positive and negative, has a dramatic effect on the frequency of suicide.
For example, the all-time recorded high in the suicide rate was 17.4 per 100,000 in 1932, at the stock market low of the Great Depression. This rate was 28% higher than 1928, the year before the market crash began.
After a mighty bull run, the Elliott wave Grand Supercycle top in the stock market occurred in 2000, with the suicide rate falling to a 39-year low of 10.4. In the bull market of the last decade of the 20th century, suicide dropped from the 8th to the 11th leading cause of death. The lowest suicide rate on record is 9.8 in 1957 when the market had more than tripled in eight years and risen 560% from 1942.
The highest suicide rate in the first decade of the 21st-century occurred during the three years of the devastating bear market of 2007–2009 when the market plunged over 50%. The average suicide rate for these three years was 10% higher than in 2000. On average, 6,500 more people killed themselves each year in 2007, 2008 and 2009 than in 2000. Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also increased, with a 36% jump in 2008. A survey found that 8.3 million adults had serious thoughts of suicide that year.
The negative social mood of major bear markets is lethal. As described in my article titled Negative Social Mood is Murder, bear markets are also associated with increased murder rates. Both self-destruction and killing of others increase when social mood turns negative and intensifies feelings of both rage and despair. Negative social mood impels some people to lash out at others while other individuals turn against themselves.
One of the policy implications of these data is that funding for suicide education, prevention, and outreach services should be increased during periods of protracted stock market decline. Unfortunately, these are also the times when economic contractions tend to occur and there is less willingness to fund such services. But these data indicate that this effort is essential nonetheless and should be a priority in times of intensely negative social mood. Its literally a matter of life or death.