New study looks at relationship between state earned income tax credits and suicidal behavior

New study looks at relationship between state earned income tax credits and suicidal behavior

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: January 15th, 2021

Over the past two decades, suicide rate has increased in the United States by 36 percent. It’s also increasingly become one of the most common causes of death in the U.S., with a disproportionate increase in rates found among low-income individuals.

Researchers in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC), UW Medicine, the Departments of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science and Pediatrics of the University of Washington School of Medicine, and the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance have conducted a study which looks at the relationship between state earned income tax credits and suicidal behavior. The study was published on January 1, 2021 in the Journal, Preventative Medicine.

“Our study is able to provide information on the relationship between state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and multiple suicide-related outcomes,” says lead researcher Erin Morgan, MS, PhD.

Morgan says prior studies focused solely on suicide deaths, she adds, “our study is the first to assess the association between EITC and non-fatal suicidal behavior.”

Researchers looked at state-level EITC and its relationship to suicide (ideation, planning, attempts, and death). They found that a 10 percentage-point increase in state EITC was associated with:

  • 4% reduction in rate of suicide attempts
  • 1% reduction in rate of suicide deaths

“As a result, this study shows how policies that target poverty and promote employment may help reduce the rising rates of suicidal behavior,“ says researcher Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, MD, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and core faculty of HIPRC at the University of Washington.

Researchers in this study suggest that state EITC may be a mechanism to reduce fatal and non-fatal suicidal behavior. EITC or similar financial policies could help reduce financial stress, increase employment rates, and improve mental health in vulnerable populations.

This work was funded by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention grant (U01 CE002945- 01). The funders had no role in the data collection, analysis, or presentation of the results.  Other authors include, Christopher R. DeCou, PhD, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science with the University of Washington School of Medicine, Heather D. Hill, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington, Stephen J. Mooney, PhD, Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health, and Frederick Rivara, MD, MPH, Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program (FIPRP) Director and Department of Pediatrics with the University of Washington School of Medicine.

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