Suicide rate set to skyrocket in Canada due to COVID-19 lockdowns, economic stagnation

Suicide rate set to skyrocket in Canada due to COVID-19 lockdowns, economic stagnation

A new study published in the August 2020 issue of Psychiatry Research has found that Canada could be looking at a suicide rate increase of up to 27 per cent as a direct result of the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and economic stagnation.

The study, conducted by University of Toronto psychiatrists Roger McIntyre and Yena Lee, attempted to project the number of suicides in Canada based on the skyrocketing unemployment rate.

According to McIntyre and Lee, a single percentage point increase in unemployment has been associated with a one per cent increase in suicide rates based on almost two decades of data collected from 2000 to 2018.

The study explored multiple scenarios; including one which had a moderate increase to 7.5 per cent and fell to 7.2 per cent in 2021, and one which had an extreme increase in unemployment to 16.6 per cent before falling to 14.9 per cent in 2021.

In the “moderate” scenario where unemployment increased from its 2019 average to 7.5 per cent, the authors predicted a 5.5 per cent increase in suicide rates.

In the “extreme” scenario, a 27.7 per cent increase, representing 14 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people, rivalling Canada’s current coronavirus death rate of 24 per 100,000.

Canada’s unemployment rate is currently higher than the “moderate” scenario outlined by McIntyre and Lee, standing at 10.9 per cent from June's record high of 13.7 per cent. 

Similar studies conducted in the U.S. have sounded the alarm on a potential epidemic of depression and suicide as the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns continue. A June study published by Dr. Leo Shur of the James J. Peters Veterans Hospital noted that one third of suicides during the SARS pandemic were associated with individuals who had been socially isolating. Dr. Shur writes that “from a suicide prevention perspective, it is troubling that the most important public health approach for the COVID-19 epidemic is social distancing.”

In addition to suicides, domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and sex trafficking have all seen marked increases during the global lockdowns.