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Anti-depressants and suicide

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  • Ludwig, Jens
  • Marcotte, Dave E.
  • Norberg, Karen

Abstract

Suicide takes the lives of around a million people each year, most of whom suffer from depression. In recent years there has been growing controversy about whether one of the best-selling anti-depressants - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - increases or decreases the risk of completed suicide. Randomized clinical trials are not informative in this application because of small samples and other problems. We present what we believe are the most scientifically credible estimates to date on how SSRI sales affect suicide mortality using data from 26 countries for up to 25 years. We exploit just the variation in SSRI sales that can be explained by institutional differences in how drugs are regulated, priced, and distributed, as reflected by the sales growth of new drugs more generally. We find an increase in SSRI sales of 1 pill per capita (12% of 2000 sales levels) reduces suicide by 5%.

Suggested Citation

  • Ludwig, Jens & Marcotte, Dave E. & Norberg, Karen, 2009. "Anti-depressants and suicide," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 659-676, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:28:y:2009:i:3:p:659-676
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    Cited by:

    1. Nadia Campaniello & Theodoros M. Diasakos & Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2017. "Rationalizable Suicides: Evidence from Changes in Inmates’ Expected Length of Sentence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 388-428.
    2. Katolik, Aleksandra & Oswald, Andrew J., 2017. "Antidepressants for Economists and Business-School Researchers: An Introduction and Review," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 338, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    3. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2011. "Antidepressants and Age," IZA Discussion Papers 5785, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. W. Bentley MacLeod, 2017. "Viewpoint: The human capital approach to inference," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 50(1), pages 5-39, February.
    5. Nadia Campaniello & Theodoros Diasakos & Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2012. "Rational Suicides: Evidence from Changes in Inmates' Expected Sentence Length," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 247, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    6. Pecchenino, Rowena A., 2015. "Have we cause for despair?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 56-62.
    7. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2016. "Antidepressants and age: A new form of evidence for U-shaped well-being through life," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 46-58.
    8. Strulik, Holger, 2018. "An economic heory of depression and its impact on health behavior and longevity," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 337, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Suicide Drug regulation Anti-depressant treatment;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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