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Murder-suicides may be 'tip of iceberg'

Feb. 2, 2009 at 11:55 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- A family sociologist says this month's murder-suicides of a family of four in Ohio and a family of five in California may be "just the tip of the iceberg."

Sampson Blair of the University at Buffalo says there is a clear association between suicide rates and the state of the larger economy. Generally, in periods of economic depression, there is a slight increase in the overall suicide rate and job loss produces a two- to three-fold increase in that risk, Blair adds.

He says the incidence of suicide, or worse, murder-suicide, hasn't received a lot of attention among family researchers because it is a relatively uncommon occurrence, but some basic patterns have been recognized.

"Such tragedies don't occur just because one or more breadwinners have lost their jobs -- high levels of stress arising from job loss are compounded by the level of responsibility that goes along with being a spouse and/or being a parent," Blair says in a statement.

"So, from the individual's point of view, the loss of a job is certainly bad, but it can become much, much worse when it coincides with a loss of savings and investments, the loss of the family home -- through foreclosure, for instance -- and dismal prospects for finding another job soon. Understandably, when you put all of those factors together, and consider the current conditions for families here in the United States, it's a rather bleak forecast."

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