A new study has revealed that increasing the minimum wage by $1 could potentially reduce the suicide rates among workers in the US.
The 25-year observational study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that a $1 increase in the minimum wage resulted in an approximately 3.4% to 5.9% decrease in suicide rates among adults ages 18 to 64.
The researchers also discovered that a $2 increase could have prevented an estimated 40,000 suicides between 2009 and 2015.
According to the study, there were about 1.4 million attempted suicides among US adults and 47,173 suicide-related deaths in 2017. Around 1.7% of those unemployed attempted suicide during the same year, compared with 0.4% of those working full-time and 0.7% of those working part-time.
In order to determine whether minimum wage policies had an impact on suicides, the researchers examined the differences between state and federal hourly minimum wages in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and compared those numbers with the unemployment and suicide rates monthly between 1990 and 2015.
Results showed that during the period, 399,206 people with a high school education or less committed suicide compared with 140,176 people with a college degree or higher education.
The study authors said: “Our findings are consistent with the notion that policies designed to improve the livelihoods of individuals with less education, who are more likely to work at lower wages and at higher risk for adverse mental health outcomes, can reduce the suicide risk in this group.”
“Our findings also suggest that the potential protective effects of a higher minimum wage are more important during times of high unemployment,” they added.
Dr. Atheendar Venkataramani, an assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, pointed out: “It always seems to surprise people that social and economic conditions can impact our health. No study like this can prove cause and effect, but it does show a link between economic conditions and mental health.”