Economic and sociological analysis of suicide

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Costs and benefits of love may be another social factor of suicide. In Johann Goethe’s "The Sorrows of Young Werther" the main character decides to die because the woman that he loves does not love him back. For him the cost of realization that his expected benefits of being together with her is very high and in addition to that the cost of seeing her happy with someone else made the character to shoot himself, for him that was the only way to stop his sorrows and the benefit of dying was much higher for him at that point. Unfortunate love of Romeo and Juliet for example led to their suicide, or in “Ethan Frome” the main character decides to slide into a tree with his beloved woman when his wife refused to let him go. For these characters the cost of living apart from each other was so high that they decided to die to be together in another life.[5] Finally many young people kill themselves every year because of their love to some celebrity. Many attempt suicide after their object of affection died or also committed suicide. They do so because of a high expected benefit of being with him/ her in the afterlife and high cost of living without that person in their lives. E.g. watching that person on TV and realizing that he/she is gone. In the past, a person had to kill himself/herself when his/her spouse died. Examples are: wife of a well-known in the Roman history Caesar Brut swallowed pieces of burning coal when she found out about death of her husband. In India the custom “sati” - self-burning of the widow together with a body of the husband down to XIX of century was not simply sample for imitation, but also obligatory ritual[6]

PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS - such as depression and panic. Several studies in recent years have suggested that people with panic disorder are more likely to attempt suicide than patients with other psychiatric conditions. One explanation was that panic disorder, when combined with clinical depression, made people more prone to suicide[7]. "Depression is a very significant predictor of whether or not a patient with panic disorder will engage in some kind of suicide behavior. But depression alone doesn't account for it all" said professor Brad Schmidt of University of Ohio[8]. The study also proved positive relationship between level of expected anxiety and suicide attempts rate. For these people the cost of doing virtually anything is risen by the level of worry and if for a long time, marginal cost of living through another day is much higher than benefits, people can decide to voluntary leave this world.

Another factor is human pride and self-honor. In some countries like Japan and Korea honor is very important self perception, especially for men. There is still a tradition of “hara-kiri”, voluntary self-destruction because of failure to complete some family or social obligation. For men who “failed” the cost of living with their “failure” was too high. They couldn’t look into the eyes of people who they failed and the only solution that was considered was “hara-kiri”. The benefit of escaping from shame was so high that these men ( mostly soldiers- samurai) did not even think about physical pain and pain of their friends and relatives. During war times high ranked soldiers were given a chance to kill themselves in order to save their honor and die like a hero.


Methods used to commit suicide vary on sex and regional bases. E.g. death by firearms is more common in rural areas where the availability of guns is higher.[9] People attempt to lower the cost of the actual effort, thus use methods that are available to them immediately instead of spending time and money and other resources. The most common non-fatal suicide attempts in both sexes are drug overdoses and poisonings[10]. There are differences in the spread of rate of suicide depending on age: The facts about senior people are clear: the illnesses and loneliness, decline of vital forces and absence of iridescent hopes better condition of a body and spirit cause dramatic emotions "of socially active old age ". At this age the choice is between battling an increasing avalanche of diseases and illnesses or intentional death. Eventhough there are some benefits (e.g. watching grandchildren grow), the cost of living is much higher. Thus the tradeoff between life and death is not so large. Factors such as social pressures, rejection of people in the same social group, e.g. classmates, work partners, etc. are major causes of suicide among middle age and youth. Young people can sometimes commit suicide just because of a disagreement inside family.


“A handbook for the study of suicide” edited by Seymour Perlin. Oxford University Press (1975)

“Suicide and Homicide” Andrew F. Henry and James F. Short Jr. The Free Press, New York ( 1968)

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