September 10, 2014
by David McDaid, A-La Park, Eva-Maria Bonin
The economic impacts of suicide are profound, although comparatively few studies have sought to quantify these costs. Updating work undertaken previously by one of the authors, it is estimated that the average cost per completed suicide for those of working age only in England is £1.67m (at 2009 prices). This includes intangible costs (loss of life to the individual and the pain and suffering of relatives), as well as lost output (both waged and unwaged), police time and funerals.
There are also costs to the public purse from recurrent non-fatal suicide events; these are more difficult to estimate, and will vary by means of suicide attempt. One English study indicates that only 14% of costs are associated with A&E attendance and medical or surgical care; more than 70% of costs are incurred through follow up psychiatric inpatient and outpatient care. This is in part because a proportion of individuals who survive suicide attempts are likely to make further attempts, in some cases fatal. There are nevertheless economic benefits from delaying completed suicide as the number of lost years of productive activity will be reduced; overall it is estimated that costs are averted of £66,797 per year per person of working age where suicide is delayed.
In 2011 we were asked by the Department of Health to identify and analyse the costs and economic payoffs of a range of interventions in the area of mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention, and to present this information in a way that would most helpfully support NHS and other commissioners in assessing the case for investment. As part of this report, we looked at the case for population-level suicide awareness training and intervention.