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November 22, 2021

'Keeping up with the Joneses' could increase suicide risk: report

As good consumers, we are taught never to live beyond our means, for that is how all financial misery will begin.

But then, in many ways doing so is the only way we can get that jacket, that car, that condo in the sky. Spending more than we should, then figuring it out later, is a disease caused by the modern marketplace. It’s affected us all.

Hardship is sure to follow such fiscal imprudence, though maybe the consequences can stretch much further than debt.

Perhaps keeping up with the Joneses can in fact boost your risk of suicide, too.

Research from the San Francisco Federal Reserve sheds an imposing light on what overspending can lead to, and the results aren’t pretty.

*Bing: How not to overspend

In its paper called “Relative Status and Well-Being: Evidence from U.S. Suicide Deaths,” the Reserve was able to find a link between financial overextension and risk of suicide.

Ultimately, the paper’s chief finding is this: lower-income earners may increase their chance of suicide if they move to higher-income communities.

“Low-income individuals who lay down roots in wealthier communities are essentially setting themselves up for disaster,” notes Business Insider’s  Mandi Woodruff. “Not only do they have less cash to afford a higher cost of living … but they’re basically living inside of the wealth gap. That all leads to an increased risk for suicide.”

Of course, it isn’t just lower-income persons living among rich people that feel the financial squeeze. The Reserve paper found that those earning under $34,000 per year were 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide than those earning more than $34,000 per year, a seemingly random benchmark but a damning one, nonetheless.

Lastly, simply having a job may be one of the largest deterrents to suicide. The Reserve paper also found that unemployed people are 72 per cent more likely to kill themselves than those that are working. Retirees and those on leave from work also tended to have higher suicide rates than the rest of the working population.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...