A question posted here just after the 2016 US Presidential election makes anecdotal claims about increased depression and suicide following the election:

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?

Is there evidence for this phenomenon and, if so, is it unique to the 2016 election?


Some studies suggest that when governments ideologically promote a strongly individualistic society there's an increase suicide rates. A correlation between right-wing governments and suicide rates has been observed in the UK and parts of Australia, where such studies were conducted.

Surely this is not the only suspected external/contributing factor for suicides though, e.g. economic recessions also seem to contribute to an increase in suicides, but the correlation with right-wing governments held even when controlling for recessions (or even variations in availability of some medications.) So researchers who conducted the (former set) of studies speculate that there may be an (additional) psychological effect unrelated to a concrete reduction in a welfare "safety net”, but instead due to a ideologically/politically-mediated enhancement of a sense of personal failure and/or societal rejection that some vulnerable people may have already been experiencing.

After the 2016 US election, an increase in stress levels was reported in the two years that followed

The American Psychological Association's 2016 "Stress in America" survey, conducted online among some 3,400 American adults and published in February of 2017, found that 63 percent of respondents regard the future of the country as "a significant source of stress"; some 56 percent "say that they are stressed by the current political climate." The 2018 edition of the survey showed that the number of Americans who view the future of the country as a significant stressor had jumped to 69 percent; those who saw the political climate as a source of stress had jumped to 62 percent.

Of note, I think, is that the US economy was not in recession during this period. However, that study does not report an increase in suicides in the US during this period, merely an increase in self-reported stress.

Earlier studies on stress following elections pointed out that in the US the "losing side" in an election seems to experience an increase in stress, at least on a physiological level:

following the 2008 presidential election, supporters of Republican presidential candidate John McCain showed a higher stress-related cortisol than those who voted for Barack Obama.

Unfortunately, these studies used different measures of stress (some psychological, some physiological), so it's not possible to compare their results directly.

As pointed out in another, more recent study, psychological self-reporting of stress may not always correlate with other behavioral indicators for suicide, especially when it came to election results.

Trump was so reviled among liberal Democrats that not reporting negative emotions after his victory might be taken as a sign of moral failure. [...]

[However, Internet s]earches have been shown to be significantly correlated with suicide attempts (McCarthy, 2010) [...]

We find that while Democrats expressed serious mental distress about the election result on surveys, on average, the Democrats in our sample did not show an increase in mental-health-related searches after the election. However, Spanish-speaking Latinos showed a significant increase in searches for depression, anxiety, therapy, and antidepressant drugs. This finding suggests that while Democrats’ descriptions of mental distress after the election had an element of expressive reporting, the mental consequences of Trump’s ascendance were very real for Latinos.

So, apparently not everyone was equally affected by Trump's election, there were more behavioral cues from Latinos than from Democrats at large. This is not incredibly surprising given that some of Trump's campaign messages disparaged Latinos specifically.

And interestingly enough, if you look at relative changes in suicide rates in US states which were on the losing vs winning side of past presidential elections, the “losing” states actually show a relative decrease in suicide rates, at least for the time frame 1981 to 2005:

Theory predicts that states with a greater percentage of residents who supported the losing candidate would tend to exhibit a relative increase in suicide rates. However, being around others who also supported the losing candidate may indicate a greater degree of social integration at the local level, thereby lowering relative suicide rates. We therefore use fixed-effects regression of state suicide rates from 1981 to 2005 on state election outcomes during presidential elections to determine which effect is stronger.

Results: 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.

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