University of Oulu, 2016

Public Defence: Sanna Huikari

Friday, September 14, 2018

Academic dissertation of Sanna Huikari (economics) is presented for public defence at the University of Oulu, Oulu Business School on Friday September 14, 2018 at 12.00 (noon) in Arina Auditorium (TA105), in Linnanmaa Campus.

Topic: Empirical studies on economics of suicides and divorces

Academic dissertation


This thesis includes three separate empirical studies on economic demography and health economics. The first study explores the effect of alcohol consumption on divorce across 23 OECD countries during the period 1960–2010. We find strong evidence that alcohol consumption is a major socioeconomic factor which influences divorces in these countries. We find robust evidence on the relationship between alcohol consumption and divorce rates both in the short and long run. In addition, using worldwide survey data on values we explore whether the change in values with respect to marriage, and moral values can explain our findings. It is noteworthy, that alcohol consumption has a significant effect on divorces even after controlling for moral values.

The second and third studies concentrate on the economics of suicide. In the second study, we explore the effects of unemployment on the well-being of the regional population with disaggregated suicide data across gender and age in Finland during 1991–2011. Our findings suggest that the increased job insecurity is associated with higher number of suicides than what is expected in good economic times. The effect is significant especially for the prime working-age (35–64 years old) male suicides. The second main contribution of this study is to relate the concept of social norm to unemployment. We show that in high unemployment areas the association between job loss and suicide mortality is not as severe as in low unemployment areas. An implication is that the burden of unemployment is reduced when it becomes socially more common and acceptable.

The goal of the third study is to provide evidence on the effects of economic crises on suicides in 21 OECD countries over the period between 1970 and 2011. In conclusion, this study shows that over 60 000 suicides are attributable to the economic/financial crises since 1970. Two main findings emerged from the data. First, the impact of the most recent global financial crisis (2008) on suicides was not particularly stronger than that of the previous major economic/financial crises. Second, stock market crashes and banking crises are the most severe economic crises in terms of excess suicides when calculated on population-level data.

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Last updated: 20.12.2019