7

I live in the US and woke up to a slew of posts, videos, comments, etc. from anonymous people online that either they or people close to them have contemplated suicide as a result of the 2016 election.

I recognize that they're anonymous and I have no reason to believe random people on the internet, but I'm also noting the sheer number of comments to that effect (One Tumblr post that urges people to not end their lives as a result of the election has over 100,000 notes). Is election-driven suicide historically common?

  • The people I have seen posting suicide help resources online are almost all involved in the LGBT community, many of which seem to think that a Trump-Pence presidency will lead to a massive erosion of rights. So I think this is really an isolated case. – Sean Duggan Nov 9 '16 at 19:30
  • @GGMG has such a phenomenon resurfaced in this election cycle? – Burt Nov 1 '19 at 0:29
12

According to the paper The politics of hope and despair: the effect of presidential election outcomes on suicide rates., states in the US that voted for the winning candidate are positively correlated with an increased rate of suicides. From the abstract:

We find that the local effect of social integration is dominant. The suicide rate when a state supports the losing candidate will tend to be lower than if the state had supported the winning candidate-4.6 percent lower for males and 5.3 percent lower for females.

The paper expands on the reasons for this:

First, supporting the defeated candidate results in a negative utility shock, which would tend to increase the suicide rate in states that supported the losing candidate relative to states that supported the winning candidate. Second, individuals who supported the defeated candidate will feel less socially integrated with the nation as a whole, which would also tend to increase the suicide rate in states that supported the losing candidate relative to states that supported the winning candidate. Third, individuals that supported the losing candidate will feel more socially integrated at the local level in states where a plurality also supported the losing candidate compared to individuals in states that supported the winning candidate. This would act as a countervailing influence, tending to decrease the suicide rate in states that supported the losing candidate relative to states that supported the winning candidate.

Essentially, the study found that if you supported a losing candidate and your state voted for the winning one, you have greater shock and less social integration, which puts you at greater risk for suicide. Conversely, if you voted for the losing candidate and enough like-minded people in your state also voted for the losing candidate, you are more socially integrated and are at less risk for suicide.

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  • I don't find that surprising. If a persons lived in a state that carried a candidate they so passionately hate, they probably fill surrounded and sophisticated by people around them, afraid to express their feelings and anxieties. – Scribblemacher Nov 9 '16 at 15:48
  • @Scribblemacher The study doesn't specifically cite anxieties or a fear to express their feelings, but it does indicate that they are less socially integrated. – Thunderforge Nov 9 '16 at 15:53
  • thanks for adding the clarification. The expanded quote you added + your commentary makes much more sense. – Scribblemacher Nov 9 '16 at 16:37
  • Does the paper make an effort to prove the theorized causation? All that the linked graphs show is correlation. The question specifically worded as "election-driven"; so mere correllation is not really answering (I still upvoted as it's a good effort, my beef is with the underlying paper and not the answer necessarily) – user4012 Sep 30 '19 at 1:53
  • @user4012 You can read the whole paper yourself. Although given they are measuring suicides that occur in the months after certain election outcomes, it would be silly to argue that post-election suicides cause certain election outcomes! – Thunderforge Sep 30 '19 at 4:22
3

In 2004, there was a single reported suicide due in part to Bush retaining the Presidency source

Ed. Note: sorry about the weird link. Looks like the Boca Raton News went out of business and Volokh Conspiracy blog moved and was subsumed into the Washington Post.

Last weekend, a Georgia man fatally shot himself at Ground Zero in New York City. Friends of Andrew Veal, 25, stated they believed the suicide was a protest against Bush’s re-election and the war in Iraq.

“When someone commits suicide in New York and Kerry’s loss is even slightly connected, it’s serious,” Gordon said.

The phenomena is called PEST.

“We’re calling it ‘post-election selection trauma’ and we’re working to develop a counseling program for it,” said Rob Gordon, the Boca-based executive director of the American Health Association. “It’s like post-traumatic stress syndrome, but it’s a short-term shock rather than a childhood trauma.”

Gordon went on to say that he treated 30 people for this disorder in Boca. I would say that any number of suicides from this disorder remain few in number.

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