Friday, April 22, 2011

If you're living in an affluent area means you are more likely to commit suicide

It may come as something of a surprise, but the happiest countries have the highest rates of suicide.

Behavioural scientists found that the more affluent an area then the happier it was, but the more likely its residents are to take their own lives.

They put this down to contrast, with a miserable person in an otherwise happy area likely to feel his lot is comparatively worse.Whereas the same person in an unhappy environment would be less inclined to dwell on his own misery and more able to tolerate it, the study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Warwick and Hamilton College in New York said that previous studies have shown 'happy' nations had high suicide rates, with Denmark often singled out as an example.

The team found the same was true about comparatively happy nations including Canada, the U.S., Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland. To rule out cultural differences and suicide reporting conventions, researchers focused on a single country - the U.S. - to see it the same pattern could be seen across its various states.

They found that states with people who are generally more satisfied with their lives tended to have higher suicide rates than those with lower average levels of life satisfaction.

Utah is ranked first in life satisfaction, but has the ninth highest suicide rate, while New York was ranked 45th in life satisfaction but had the lowest suicide rate in the country. Even after making adjustments for age, gender, race, education and income the link could still clearly be made, the scientists write in the U.S. publication Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

After these adjustments, Hawaii would rank second in average life satisfaction, but with the fifth highest suicide rate in the country. New Jersey would rank near the bottom in life satisfaction (47th) but with one of the lowest adjusted suicide risks (also 47th).

Professor Andrew Oswald, of the University of Warwick, co-author on the report Dark Contrasts: The Paradox Of High Rates Of Suicide In Happy Places, said this could come down to how we judge ourselves by other people.

He said: 'Discontented people in a happy place may feel particularly harshly treated by life. Those dark contrasts may in turn increase the risk of suicide. 'If humans are subject to mood swings, the lows of life may thus be most tolerable in an environment in which other humans are unhappy.'

Professor Stephen Wu of Hamilton College added: 'This result is consistent with other research that shows that people judge their well-being in comparison to others around them.

'These types of comparison effects have also been shown with regards to income, unemployment, crime, and obesity.'

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