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Words matter life: The effect of language on suicide behavior

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  • Lien, Donald
  • Zhang, Shuo

Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between future time reference (FTR) in language and suicide behavior on both country level and individual level and provides a new source to explain the huge variation of suicide behaviors across countries. We find that language markers on future tense have impacts on the speakers’ behaviors that involve intertemporal considerations, even the most critical decision on life – the suicide behavior. On aggregate level, countries with primary languages marking future tense intensively in grammar have lower suicide rates. We prove this effect is consistent with the results obtained on individual level: Individuals speaking strong FTR languages tend to have lower acceptance on both suicide and euthanasia.

Suggested Citation

  • Lien, Donald & Zhang, Shuo, 2020. "Words matter life: The effect of language on suicide behavior," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:86:y:2020:i:c:s2214804319302952
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2020.101536
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Suicide; Language; Culture; Behavior;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General

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