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COVID-19 and Its Impact on Suicide and Overdose Rates

Sep 15, 2021 | 3 min read

Key Takeaways

  • Since the start of the pandemic there has been interest in understanding COVID-19’s impact on suicide and overdose rates.
  • Suicide continues to be a cause for concern and remains a leading cause of death.
  • Pandemic-related stress led to the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period.


In observance of Suicide Awareness Month in September, Prudential is highlighting the connection between COVID-19 and increasing suicide and overdose rates.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, researchers have sought to understand the effect that social isolation, job loss, and anxiety would have on suicide rates. Their concern was justified. U.S. suicide rates have risen 35% between 1999 and 2018, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.1 Suicide claimed 47,500 lives in 2019, and was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The number of suicide deaths declined by 2,677 from 2019 to 2020.2

Yet, while COVID-19 replaced suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in 2020, it does not imply that suicide is no longer a concern. Researchers discovered that there’s often a decrease in suicide rates in the aftermath of a disaster.3



With the spread of coronavirus variants, the rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are expected to rise, which may have an ongoing impact on suicide and substance use.  In fact, the 2021 State of Mental Health in America Report found that there was an increase of 1.5 million people living with a mental health condition year over year.4

Stress and uncertainty related to the pandemic led to an upsurge in substance use as a coping mechanism, and unfortunately, worsened the drug overdose epidemic in the United States.5 Overdose deaths increased 29.4% in 2020 as compared to 2019, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period and the largest year over year increase since at least 1999.6  

Read our previous research, Our Global Suicide Crisis, which takes a closer look at suicide and offers recommendations for how to proactively address this crisis in the workplace.

In our next mental health article, we’ll dive deeper into substance use and its impact on families, employees, and the workplace.




Ph.D., CRC, LPC Vice President, Health and Productivity Practice, Prudential

Dr. Kristin Tugman has more than 20 years’ experience as a health and productivity consultant. Her work is founded on a specific cognitive behavioral model to help individuals overcome psychological barriers and return to productivity. In addition, she’s the author of several publications on the psychological aspects of disability. A certified rehabilitation counselor and licensed professional counselor, Dr. Tugman earned a master’s in rehabilitation counseling from Georgia State University and a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology from Capella University. Dr. Tugman leads a team focused on identifying disability trends that impact Prudential customers and making actionable recommendations to help maximize productivity and minimize absence.



MS, LCMHC, CCM Vice President, Disability Claims, Prudential

Gail Ballin is a clinical leader with proven success in all areas of operations. She is solution-focused with solid ability to assess business needs and identify efficiencies that result in better workflows, cost savings, and an improved client and employee experience. She has a master’s degree in counseling from Nova Southeastern University and is a licensed professional counselor with over 20 years of experience as a clinician. She spent close to 20 years in the disability and absence industry before joining Prudential in 2019. Gail leads a team of professional resources with clinical, medical, behavioral health, and vocational rehabilitation expertise. Her teams focus on assessing wellness, functional capacity, and return to work.


The Prudential Insurance Company of America (Prudential)

For Compliance Use Only:GL.2021.089

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Oct 19, 2021 | 4 min read

Oct 11, 2021

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