Home » Suicides among Swedish men decreased after Viagra became more affordable

Suicides among Swedish men decreased after Viagra became more affordable

Depression often leads to a drop in libido. But, what about the reverse? How likely is the lack of sexual intimacy in life to cause depression? A recent study found a connection between the affordability of generic Viagra and suicide in men, hinting at a causal effect of the lack sexual intimacy on the deterioration of mental health.

In July 2013, the patent rights to Sildenafil (generic Viagra) ended in Sweden. 12 tablets of Viagra used to cost about 1200 SEK (180 USD) in the country. After the patent rights ended, sildenafil was priced 300 SEK (45 USD) – a dramatic drop of 75% in the price of Viagra.

“The number of Swedish men using sildenafil averaged 62,000 per year from 2007 to 2012. That number increased to 101,000 for the years 2014–2017”

The study by Ralph Catalano et al. used the monthly counts of suicide among Swedish men aged 50-59 (a proxy for mental health in the population) and examined whether it changed after Viagra became more affordable. According to the researchers, this age group was chosen because of two reasons.

  1. This age group saw the fastest increase in prescriptions for Sildenafil to treat Erectile Dysfunction compared to any other, after 2013.
  2. Historically, most number of suicides have been reported in this age group compared to any other.                                            

Data from 120 months (January 2005 – December 2014) indicate that in the months following the patent lapse (July 2013), the suicide counts decreased. Researchers calculated that on average, 65 fewer suicides occurred each month after the drop in Sildenafil prices. Statistical checks done by the researchers suggest the association “could not arise from shared trends or seasonality, biased samples, or reverse causation”.

“Our finding would appear by chance fewer than once in 10 000 experiments (i.e., point estimate of −4.66 with a standard error of 0.94)”

According to the researchers, the findings suggest that a healthy sex life offers some protection against depression, besides fostering greater happiness, feelings of belonging, desirability & self-worth, and satisfaction with life. Read more about the study by Ralph Catalano, Sidra Goldman‑Mellor, Tim Bruckner, and Terry Hartig here.