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Will a recession cause "suicide by the thousands"?

Cross-posted on Metaculus: Pandemics.

In a Fox News town hall on 2020-03-24, President Donald Trump predicted that a recession in the US would cause "suicides by the thousands." Let's see if he's right!

CDC's Wonder database gives us their annual count of deaths-by-suicide. From this, we can perform a simple linear regression to see that the number of suicides is increasing by roughly 1012 annually. The last year for which data are available (2018) had 48,312 suicides. Accordingly, we might predict that there were roughly 49,324 in 2019 and there would be around 50,336 in a business-as-usual 2020 scenario. Thus, to judge the President's prediction, let's see if there are at least 1000 suicides more than that.

If the US experiences a recession in 2020, will the number of suicides in the US in 2020 exceed 51,336?

For purposes of this question:

  • A recession will be defined as two consecutive quarters of Negative GDP growth for the United States.
  • If the US does not experience a recession, this question resolves ambiguously.
  • The number of suicides will be the number reported by the CDC's Wonder database, or by a press release or other official publication by the National Center for Health Statistics reporting all deaths classified as any of ICD10 codes X60-X84 (Intentional self-harm). If the NCHS goes defunct without a clear successor before publishing this data, the question resolves ambiguously.


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