HealthDay News — Among U.S. adults with a high school education or less, an increase in the state-level minimum wage may reduce the suicide rate, according to a study published online Jan. 7 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

John A. Kaufman, from Emory University in Atlanta, and colleagues ran difference-in-differences models using monthly data from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 2015 to examine the impact of minimum wage on suicide by level of unemployment. Educational attainment was used to define treatment and control groups. Exposure was the difference between state and federal minimum wage in 2015 U.S. dollars.

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The researchers found that among adults aged 18 to 64 years with a high school education or less, a US$1 increase in the minimum wage had an impact ranging from a 3.4 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 0.4 to 6.4) to a 5.9 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 1.4 to 10.2) decrease in the suicide rate. Significant effect modification was detected by unemployment rate; the largest effects of minimum wage on reducing suicides were seen at higher unemployment levels.

“Our findings are consistent with the notion that policies designed to improve the livelihoods of individuals with less education, who are more likely to work at lower wages and at higher risk for adverse mental health outcomes, can reduce the suicide risk in this group,” the authors write. “The potential protective effects of a higher minimum wage are more important during times of high unemployment.”

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