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October 29, 2003 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Has the economy got you down? Studies show that if you give suicide the ol' college try your income will increase 36.3%
posted by palegirl (21 comments total)
Okay, you know what? This is the goofiest thing I've read since the earlier thread about turning a town with only 6 people into a buffalo playground, which was in turn the wierdest thing I've read since yesterday's Fark item about the guy who returned from holiday to find his apartment had been neatly cleaned out down to the mantlepiece and the peas in the freezer.
posted by ilsa at 8:07 PM on October 29, 2003

Starting in 2007, Raise Roulette swept the nation as employees gambled their lives on a spin of the chamber for a 10% raise. By 2018, the problem of excessive middle management had all but been eliminated.
posted by rushmc at 8:08 PM on October 29, 2003

Marcotte's study found that after people attempt suicide and fail, their incomes increase by an average of 20.6 percent compared to peers who seriously contemplate suicide but never make an attempt.

Well, duh. The people who actually attempt suicide are at a lower point in their lives than those who merely contemplate it, so all indicators, income included, have effectively nowhere to go but up. The "benefit" is a statistical mirage. (IANAE, of course.)
posted by Tlogmer at 8:12 PM on October 29, 2003

I found this to be an interesting argument.
Why should suicide be an economic boon? Once you attempt suicide you suddenly have access to lots of resources—medical care, psychiatric attention, familial love and concern—that were previously expensive or unavailable. Doubters may ask why the depressed don't seek out resources earlier. But studies have demonstrated that psychological and familial resources become "cheaper" after a suicide attempt: It is difficult to find free medical care when you are sad, but once you try to kill yourself, it's forced on you.
posted by palegirl at 8:15 PM on October 29, 2003

So, attempt suicide and be a son rather than a daughter (I was surprised how many people thought that column was sexist when in fact it was just the opposite.) Sound economics advice from Slate.

I always thought that people who attempt or commit suicide were likely to be on the upswing from a major depression, not at the bottom.

Even if you have good insurance, it can be hard to find mental health care. The system often requires that you be at the top of your mental game to negotiate the bureaucracy.
posted by transona5 at 8:34 PM on October 29, 2003

As others have pointed out, the key here is the control group: other people who are horribly depressed but who don't attempt suicide. Setting aside the material benefits you get from surviving a suicide attempt, I would think that just the thrill of being alive would get you going again.

Hype aside, I don't see any evidence here that if happy people attempt suicide their situation will improve.

On preview: maybe this article is just a way of saying that the old "cry for help" rationale for suicide actually works.
posted by alms at 8:55 PM on October 29, 2003

So, the best way to improve your economic future is to unsuccessfully commit suicide. You probably don't even need to be that convincing about actually wanting to kill yourself - almost anyone who was told "I tried to almost kill myself to improve my finances" would agree that great wads of psychiatric help is needed as quickly as they would for someone who actually tried to commit suicide for real. How do you go about a suicide attempt that is reasonably convincing, yet has little chance of success? Jump in front of a moving bicycle? Take an overdose of vitamins?
posted by dg at 9:00 PM on October 29, 2003

I'd like to see some Canadian data. Where I live, psych help is free, accessible, and not heavily stigmatized.
posted by stonerose at 9:16 PM on October 29, 2003

Marcotte's study found that after people attempt suicide and fail, their incomes increase by an average of 20.6 percent compared to peers who seriously contemplate suicide but never make an attempt.

The findings of this study might actually be the consequence of a statistical phenomenon called regression toward the mean. In plain English, people who attempt suicide are not "average" so we cannot expect them to have average incomes. In fact, they would probably have below-average incomes due to their mental health problems and mood. Once the suicide attempter fails and the person receives medical and familial attention, the person's income will start creeping toward the mean of the income distribution again. In fact, the above link on regression to the mean states "The more extreme the sample group, the greater the regression to the mean." This gibes with the finding reported in the Slate article that "harder" suicide attempts led to a bigger boost in income. So if you have suicidal people as your "sample," this suggests that they will get a boost in income simply as a result of becoming more "average," regardless of whether the post-suicide intervention did any good. (Note, I'm not belittling the need for intervention for those who attempt suicide. I'm just saying the promise of income benefits is ridiculous.)
posted by jonp72 at 9:17 PM on October 29, 2003

If "Previous studies had demonstrated that as personal incomes rise, the propensity for suicide falls" then it would be more rational to fight poverty than fight suicide.
posted by raaka at 9:20 PM on October 29, 2003

"...if you're uniunsured and try that in Illinois we will happily bill you."

I hate Illinois Nazis.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:38 PM on October 29, 2003

it sounds like a good idea, but 36.3% of $0.00 is still $0.00. damn this unemployment.
posted by clockwork at 9:52 PM on October 29, 2003

whether the post-suicide intervention did any good
Post-suicide intervention is probably a bit pointless. Post-suicide attempt is another matter ;-)
posted by dg at 10:24 PM on October 29, 2003

(IANAE, of course.)

i am not an example? :-)
posted by quonsar at 10:52 PM on October 29, 2003

Oh, wow, Slate, yeah, fuck, sure! I was just contemplating eating the muzzle of my .45 again for what must be the hundredth time this month, and you've persuaded me to make sure I give myself a grazing head wound instead. Hmm, ha, I'm looking forward to the results already!
posted by alumshubby at 11:26 PM on October 29, 2003

Wasn't Ianae that Greek maiden who was seduced by Zeus in the guise of a suicide hotline operator?
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:46 PM on October 29, 2003

Regagding the Slate article that transona5 mentions:

Dahl and Moretti make the extremely helpful observation that all theories fall into one of two categories: Either sons improve the quality of married life (say by being more available for an evening game of catch) or sons exacerbate the pain of divorce (say by falling apart emotionally when the father leaves).

Theories of the first sort suggest that a boy child is a blessing; theories of the second sort suggest that the same boy child is a curse—or at least has the potential to become a curse if the marriage starts to crumble.
    This hypothesis doesn't mention a possible third reason: The mother may be compelled to leave a father to protect the girls from (physical, psychological, or sexual) abuse, where she may not have to do so (statistically as often) in the case of male children. Leaving to protect the girls from abuse may also contribute to an abused mother acting on behalf of her female children and therefore also improving her live by leaving...rather than staying for the boy child(ren) and paying with her life. I have no idea how this posit might effect Dahl and Moretti's numbers, but to base a study on the topic only from the "Boys: good or bad" POV leaves out the flipside inquiry of "Girls: bad or good?"
posted by Dunvegan at 5:07 AM on October 30, 2003

Random thought: There are different types of suicide attempts. Perhaps there's a subset of personalities here - The more "spectacular" jumping off a bridge type also may have a personality that, when not deeply depressed, would be more aggressive in the rest of their life. So when those particular people recover, they do so in a fairly big way, by achieving a higher-status job.

(And also what everybody else said about nowhere to go but up anyway.)
posted by NorthernLite at 5:39 AM on October 30, 2003

There was an article a couple weeks ago about people who jump off the Golden Gate bridge. It said that almost all people who jump off and survive immediately regretted it as soon as their feet left solid bridge. They suddenly saw that things weren't as hopeless as they'd previously thought.

Maybe that's a partial effect here: committing suicide and failing makes one appreciate life a little more (and do things that result in higher income than lying around listlessly in depression before)
posted by tippiedog at 8:29 AM on October 30, 2003

Although suicide attempts cost the nation more than $3 billion per year, and suicides claim more American lives than homicides, suicide prevention is hampered by scarce resources.

Never would have guessed that. So a failed suicide is success.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:46 PM on October 30, 2003

I hate Illinois Nazis.

I've always loved you!
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:41 PM on October 30, 2003

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