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Natural disasters and suicide: Evidence from Japan

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  • Matsubayashi, Tetsuya
  • Sawada, Yasuyuki
  • Ueda, Michiko

Abstract

Previous research shows no consensus as to whether and how natural disasters affect suicide rates in their aftermath. Using prefecture-level panel data of natural disasters and suicide in Japan between 1982 and 2010, we estimate both contemporaneous and lagged effects of natural disasters on the suicide rates of various demographic groups. We find that when the damage caused by natural disasters is extremely large, as in the case of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995, suicide rates tend to increase in the immediate aftermath of the disaster and several years later. However, when the damage by natural disasters is less severe, suicide rates tend to decrease after the disasters, especially one or two years later. Thus, natural disasters affect the suicide rates of affected populations in a complicated way, depending on the severity of damages as well as on how many years have passed since the disaster. We also find that the effects of natural disasters on suicide rates vary considerably across demographic groups, which suggests that some population subgroups are more vulnerable to the impact of natural disasters than others. We then test the possibility that natural disasters enhance people's willingness to help others in society, an effect that may work as a protective factor against disaster victims' suicidal risks. We find that natural disasters increase the level of social ties in affected communities, which may mitigate some of the adverse consequence of natural disasters, resulting in a decline in suicide rates. Our findings also indicate that when natural disasters are highly destructive and disruptive, such protective features of social connectedness are unlikely to be enough to compensate for the severe negative impact of disasters on health outcomes.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

Volume (Year): 82 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 126-133

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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:82:y:2013:i:c:p:126-133

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Related research

Keywords: Natural disasters; Suicide; Japan; Social connectedness; Social capital;

References

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  1. Hwei-Lin Chuang & Wei-Chiao Huang, 2007. "A Re-Examination of the Suicide Rates in Taiwan," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 83(3), pages 465-485, September.
  2. Joe Chen & Yun Jeong Choi & Kohta Mori & Yasuyuki Sawada & Saki Sugano, 2009. "Socio-Economic Studies on Suicide: A Survey," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-629, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
  3. Mohan, John & Twigg, Liz & Barnard, Steve & Jones, Kelvyn, 2005. "Social capital, geography and health: a small-area analysis for England," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(6), pages 1267-1283, March.
  4. Masanori Kuroki, 2011. "Does Social Trust Increase Individual Happiness In Japan?," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 444-459, December.
  5. Paolo Buonanno & Daniel Montolio & Paolo Vanin, 2006. "Does Social Capital Reduce Crime?," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0029, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
  6. Paxson, Christina & Fussell, Elizabeth & Rhodes, Jean & Waters, Mary, 2012. "Five years later: Recovery from post traumatic stress and psychological distress among low-income mothers affected by Hurricane Katrina," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 150-157.
  7. Skidmore, Mark, 2001. "Risk, natural disasters, and household savings in a life cycle model," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 15-34, January.
  8. John C. Driscoll & Aart C. Kraay, 1998. "Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimation With Spatially Dependent Panel Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(4), pages 549-560, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Eiji Yamamura & Yoshiro Tsutsui & Chisako Yamane & Shoko Yamane & Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2014. "Trust and Happiness: Comparative Study Before and After the Great East Japan Earthquake," ISER Discussion Paper 0904, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  2. Eiji Yamamura & Yoshiro Tsutsui & Chisako Yamane & Shoko Yamane, 2014. "Effect of major disasters on geographical mobility intentions: the case of the Fukushima nuclear accident," ISER Discussion Paper 0903, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  3. Tim Tiefenbach & Florian Kohlbacher, 2013. "Disentangling the Happiness Effects of Natural Disasters: The Mitigating Effects of Charitable Donations," DIJ Working Papers 1305, German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ), Business & Economics Section.

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