Is prevention of suicide worth less? A comparison of the value per statistical life

Vimefall E, Persson M, Olofsson S & Hultkrantz L

This paper compares the value per statistical life (VSL) in the context of suicide prevention to that of prevention of traffic fatalities. We conducted a contingent valuation survey with questions on willingness to pay (WTP) in both contexts by administering a web questionnaire to 1038 individuals aged 18 to 80. We conjectured that WTP for a given impact on the number of fatalities would be lower for suicide prevention because suicide, at least to some degree, is the result of individuals’ own decisions. However, this hypothesis was not supported by the within- or between-sample estimates of WTP or by responses to direct questions. Hence, no support is provided for the use of a lower valuation of the impact of suicide prevention than for risk-reducing programs in other fields, such as traffic safety. This implies that the same VSL should be used for evaluating suicide prevention interventions and for risk-reducing programs in other policy areas and funds for the prevention of fatalities should be directed to the area with the lowest cost per life saved.

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The European Journal of Health Economics, Aug 2021, Online first article