Thursday, February 22, 2007

SSRIs and suicide

Mankiw links a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research on the cost effectiveness of SSRIs in decreasing mortality from suicidal behavior.

We find that an increase in SSRI sales of 1 pill per capita (about a 12 percent increase over 2000 sales levels) is associated with a decline in suicide mortality of around 5 percent. These estimates imply a cost per statistical life far below most other government interventions to improve health outcomes.
The paper doesn't do anything to distinguish who might be at risk for a personally increased risk of suicide, but it does help us keep SSRIs in perspective: they do a lot more good than they do harm. The question remains, of course, how to reduce that harm.

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