Acceleration of Anxiety, Depression, and Suicide: Secondary Effects of Economic Disruption Related to COVID-19

M. Harvey Brenner, Dinesh Bhugra

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41 Scopus citations


The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has contributed to increasing levels of anxiety, depression and other symptoms of stress around the globe. Reasons for this increase are understandable in the context of individual level factors such as self-isolation, lockdown, grief, survivor guilt, and other factors but also broader social and economic factors such as unemployment, insecure employment and resulting poverty, especially as the impacts of 2008 recession are still being felt in many countries further accompanied by social isolation. For those who are actively employed a fear of job and income loss and those who have actually become ill and recovered or those who have lost family and friends to illness, it is not surprising that they are stressed and feeling the psychological impact. Furthermore, multiple uncertainties contribute to this sense of anxiety. These fears and losses are major immediate stresses and undoubtedly can have long-term implications on mental health. Economic uncertainty combined with a sense of feeling trapped and resulting lack of control can contribute to helplessness and hopelessness where people may see suicide as a way out. Taking a macro view, we present a statistical model of the impact of unemployment, and national income declines, on suicide, separately for males and females over the life cycle in developed countries. This impact may reflect a potent combination of social changes and economic factors resulting in anomie. The governments and policymakers have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure the physical health and well-being of their populations. While setting in place preventive measures to avoid infections and then subsequent mortality, the focus on economic and social recovery is crucial. A global pandemic requires a global response with a clear inter-linked strategy for health as well as economic solutions. The models we have constructed represent predictions of suicide rates among the 38 highly industrialized OECD countries over a period of 18 years (2000–2017). Unemployment has a major effect on increasing suicide, especially in middle-aged groups. However, the impact of economic decline through losses of national income (GDP per capita) are substantially greater than those of unemployment and influence suicide throughout the life course, especially at the oldest ages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number592467
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Great Recession
  • depression
  • economy
  • national income loss
  • recession
  • suicide
  • unemployment


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