Calls for Reserve Bank to slow rate rises amid mental health spike
As Australians nervously wait for today's interest rate decision, experts are concerned the impact on the community's mental health will increase in the next year as the cost of living pressures bear down.
Suicide Prevention Australia's latest quarterly data has shown 46 per cent of Australians have reported an elevated distress level from cost of living pressures.
This is a 5 per cent rise on the December quarter.
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Further to this, when Aussies were asked to compare their stress levels to this time last year 74 per cent said it had risen.
The data also revealed Australians' distress around housing affordability increased from 21 to 23 per cent.
And concerns about becoming unemployed rose from 16 per cent to 21 per cent.
The distress levels are so high that experts forecast rates of suicide could increase in the next 12 months due to cost of living and personal debt, lack of housing access and affordability, and unemployment and job security.
In the past year, NSW has seen a 5 per cent increase in suicides while in Victoria there has been a 9 per cent rise.
The data has sparked Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray to call on the Reserve Bank of Australia to put on the brakes with interest rate rises.
READ MORE: Homeowners brace for another interest rate rise
It comes as the central bank is set to hike the cash rate for the tenth consecutive time today in a battle to bring inflation back to target.
The current cash rate is 3.35 per cent while inflation slowed in the year to January 2023 to 7.4 per cent.
Governor Philip Lowe has previously said the bank will do anything to drive inflation down.
"The Board expects that further increases in interest rates will be needed over the months ahead to ensure that inflation returns to target and that this period of high inflation is only temporary," he said in the February announcement.
Murray said the rising interest rates and suicide rates should drive the central bank and government to add a "human face" to their decision-making.
"Our findings once again prove the clear link between the impact of rising economic and social pressures and distress levels in the community," she told 9News.com.au.
"We're deeply concerned about the impact that cost-of-living is having on Australians."
READ MORE: What is the fixed rate mortgage cliff, and how is it going to impact the Australian economy?
Murray has called on the federal government to act in the May budget to address rising rate pressures coinciding with a rise in suicides.
"It's critical this budget deliver on commitments to mental health and suicide prevention," she said.
"The Treasurer has signalled his intent to pursue values-based capitalism. Ensuring the RBA and his budgets consider human – not just economic – wellbeing to prevent suicide rates rising further is a strong starting point.
"When we are talking about suicide it's important to remember that every number represents a human life and a cascade of grief and healing across the impacted communities."
Crisis support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Support is available from Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
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