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Anti-depressants and Suicide

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Listed:
  • Jens Ludwig
  • Dave E. Marcotte
  • Karen Norberg

Abstract

Does drug treatment for depression with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase or decrease the risk of completed suicide? The question is important in part because of recent government warnings that question the safety of SSRIs, one of the most widely prescribed medications in the world. While there are plausible clinical and behavioral arguments that SSRIs could have either positive or negative effects on suicide, randomized clinical trials have not been very informative because of small samples and other problems. In this paper we use data from 26 countries for up to 25 years to estimate the effect of SSRI sales on suicide mortality using just the variation in SSRI sales that can be explained by cross-country variation in the growth of drug sales more generally. We find that an increase in SSRI sales of 1 pill per capita (about a 12 percent increase over 2000 sales levels) is associated with a decline in suicide mortality of around 5 percent. These estimates imply a cost per statistical life far below most other government interventions to improve health outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Jens Ludwig & Dave E. Marcotte & Karen Norberg, 2007. "Anti-depressants and Suicide," NBER Working Papers 12906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12906
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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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

    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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