The study, titled "Impact of Business Cycles on the U.S. Suicide Rates, 1928-2007," was conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published online in the American Journal of Public Health.
In that group, suicides have been most common in periods of economic recession like the Great Depression after the 1929 stock market crash, the end of the New Deal in the late 1930s, the Persian Gulf oil crisis in the mid-1970s and the so-called "double-dip" recession in the early 1980s. The study examined data up until the year 2007, so it doesn't include suicide figures for the current global economic downturn.
By far the biggest rise in suicides occurred in the Great Depression, when the national suicide rate jumped from 18 per 100,000 adults in 1928 to more than 22 per 100,000 people in 1932 -- an all-time high. That's a 22.8 percent jump over four years.
Since then, the U.S. suicide rate has been mostly dropping, especially during periods of relative economic prosperity, such as during World War II, when the U.S. economy was expanding, and in the 1990s, when America saw fast growth and low unemployment. The U.S. suicide rate fell to its lowest point in the year 2000.
"Economic problems can impact how people feel about themselves and their futures as well as their relationships with family and friends. Economic downturns can also disrupt entire communities," Feijun Luo, an economist with the CDC's Division of Violence Prevention and the study's lead author, said in a statement on the group's website.
Sadly, Luo's findings have been reflected in untold numbers of suicides during the recent economic downturn in the United States, when nearly 10 percent of workers are still unable to find jobs. Such deaths are often unreported in the media. Last month, a 29-year-old maintenance worker jumped to his death from the roof of the city hall in Costa Mesa, Calif., hours after the city announced major layoffs. The man had worked for the city for four years and been told he might lose his job.
Based on its findings, the CDC recommended beefing up counseling to Americans who've lost their homes or jobs, and promoting family and community connectedness, so workers feel as if they can reach out to loved ones if they need help. It has also recommended making suicide crisis centers more widely available.