Spanish Flu (1918-1920) Impact on US Suicide Rates by Race: Potential Future Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tarun Bastiampillai, Stephen Allison, Jeffrey C.L. Looi

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

5 Citations (Scopus)


Due to combined health and economic effects, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may increase US suicide rates. Previous epidemics may have increased suicide rates in some countries, such as Hong Kong (severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic) and Taiwan (influenza pandemic: 1918–1920). However, Pirkis et al analyzed the early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global suicide rates, finding that suicide rates in 21 countries (16 high income and 5 upper-middle income) have either been stable or reduced. Within the United States, this study specifically found that California, Illinois, and Texas (4 counties) had reduced suicide rates, while Louisiana and New Jersey had stable suicide rates. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) recently released provisional US mortality data for 2020, which estimated a 17.7% increase in overall mortality, but a 5.6% decline in US suicide rates compared to 2019 (reduced from 47,511 to 44,834 suicides). As context, Durkheim historically identified that major crises are often associated with a reduction in suicides, because great upheavals in society, like great popular wars, sharpen collective feelings, stimulate the party spirit and the national one and by concentrating activities towards a single end, achieve at least for a time, a greater integration of society.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21com03088.
Number of pages7
JournalThe Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2021


  • Spanish Flu
  • Suicide
  • Race
  • United States


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