About one million people (in US) attempt suicide a year and cost the nation $500 billion. How is this cost calculated and why is this figure so high ($500,000) for each attempt?


About one million people (in US) attempt suicide a year and cost the nation $500 billion. How is this cost calculated and why is this figure so high ($500,000) for each attempt?

In: 221

Everyone’s gotta get paid, everything costs.

Suicides, by nature, are destructive acts. Bringing someone back from the brink requires a lot work and time to put the pieces back together. First responders, doctors, nurses, all their time, all the things they use, all the space the hospital devotes, the resources it takes just to have a hospital available, it all costs, and they’re all going to do *their goddamned best* to undo whatever damage has been done.

And they all deserve to get paid more than fairly for it. It all costs, everyone gets paid.

Well, I dipped my toe into this to see if there was a straightforward answer. There is not.

The CDC page redirects you towards SAMHSA, who apparently collated this data. Their quick answer is that it’s medical costs (understandable) and lost work time (I get it, but still feels tacky to mention). I am going to assume medical costs include, not only physical rehab, but mental health care as well.

ELI5: Most of that money isn’t out-of-pocket; it’s largely theoretical, like the loss of future earnings.

>More on this:

First of all, those are incorrect figures.

Suicides and suicide attempts amount to [$58.4 billion](https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26511788/) annually, 97% of which is indirect costs like lost productivity.

Ambulance services, police investigation, hospital, physician, autopsy, funeral and cremation are direct costs. If it is attempted suicide, but not completed, other costs may include counselling, rehabilitation and drug treatments.

Indirect costs are productivity losses that society must bear over time; they can be thought of as discounted future earnings due to potential years of life lost.


While you don’t reference a specific study, it wouldn’t be surprising if this was a figure that came from the CDC.

In the 1990’s, the CDC produced a bunch of studies on the costs of various diseases to society. Those costs were generally pretty low, since all they took into account were actual medical costs involved.

This started a sort of political lobbying arms race. Each major disease has an equally major foundation/association/whatever associated with it that tries to “promote awareness” or spend money on finding a cure. Each of those organizations, in turn, wants their disease to appear to worse than the others to help fundraising efforts.

So the various disease organizations started lobbying Congress to tell the CDC to produce higher numbers. Congress didn’t care, since its an entirely irrelevant issue, and over the years repeatedly told the CDC to pump up the disease cost numbers.

So the CDC progressively increased the scope of what it included in the definition of a “cost” of a disease to society. The point that we’re at now is that the CDC considers “lost happiness” to be a cost attributable to a disease. There is no definition of what constitutes lost happiness – its whatever the authors of the study want it to be – and lost happiness constitutes the vast majority of the costs that the CDC puts out.

So what you’re almost certainly seeing in the $500 billion number is a few hundred million in direct treatment costs. A few billion in lost productivity, legal expenses, administrative expenses, other social program expenditures (IE, food stamps for people who can’t work because they’re too depressed), ect… And then >$495 billion in “lost happiness.”

tl/dr: the CDC doesn’t take disease cost calculations seriously anymore. When they fund a study, they basically just tell the authors to pump the numbers as high as they think people will believe. This means that statistics you read about the cost of a disease to society are generally meaningless.

Back in high school I had to a report on this. Future income, taxes you would pay, all the stores you would support that pay taxes, .etc. it’s all about the money you wouldn’t contribute!