It is quite baffling that the countries with the highest standards of living, and among several dimensions the happiest ones, also exhibit the highest suicide rates. Is it that places where material necessities are easily met other more psychological worries take over? Is it that somehow happiness is more volatile, or more diverse?
Mary Daly, Andrew Oswald, Daniel Wilson and Stephen Wu use two data sets that allow to compare suicide rates and happiness across US states to show that this paradox is also true within the United States. This thus invalidates the cultural or institutional explanations of the international paradox. This also allows to use all sorts of cross-state controls, but none makes the paradox disappear. Daly, Oswald, Wilson and Wu then conclude that there must be a direct causality from happiness to suicide: living among happy people is depressing for some. This may be consistent with the fact that suicide rates drop in war time. And it is difficult to imagine the reverse causality, that high suicide rates make survivors happy.