Children mirror adults for the worse: evidence of suicide rates due to air pollution and unemployment

Akihiro Okuyama, Sunbin Yoo, Shunsuke Managi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Every year, more than 700,000 people die due to suicide, one of the most common reasons for youth death. While many studies have revealed two main factors for suicidal behavior: impulsive suicidal behavior due to mental illness and financial stress, it is not clear what happens if individuals face deterioration of mental health and economic recession. This paper attempts to answer this question and how suicide rates are correlated with these factors. Methods: We empirically investigate whether economic recessions and air pollution trigger suicides by examining Japan, a country with one of the highest suicide rates, from 2014 to 2021. We take advantage of the characteristics of the COVID-19 pandemic and the periods before the pandemic, when both economic recessions and reductions in air pollution occurred simultaneously. Using monthly and municipal- level data, we construct a triple difference model that takes air pollution and unemployment as treatments. Results: Our findings show that high (upper half of each period) levels of air pollution and unemployment have substantial impacts on the suicide rates of adults (22.9% in the short term) and children (42.7% in the short term, 36.0% in the long term), indicating that the increase in suicide rates among children is almost twice as high as that among adults. Our study finds that unemployment and air pollution alone are not associated with increased suicide rates but their simultaneous occurrence triggers suicides during the pandemic. Conclusions: Our study urges suicide prevention, particularly among children, as an essential consideration for public health. Furthermore, our results indicate the need for the government to allocate resources to recover air quality and the economy simultaneously during a recession to reduce suicide mortality of both child and adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1614
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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