Analysis of the cost effectiveness of a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge
Whitmer, D.A. & Woods, D.L.
Background: The Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) is a well-known "suicide magnet" and the site of approximately 30 suicides per year. Recently, a suicide barrier was approved to prevent further suicides. Aims: To estimate the cost-effectiveness of the proposed suicide barrier, we compared the proposed costs of the barrier over a 20-year period ($51.6 million) to estimated reductions in mortality. Method: We reviewed San Francisco and Golden Gate Bridge suicides over a 70-year period (1936-2006). We assumed that all suicides prevented by the barrier would attempt suicide with alternative methods and estimated the mortality reduction based on the difference in lethality between GGB jumps and other suicide methods. Cost/benefit analyses utilized estimates of value of statistical life (VSL) used in highway projects. Results: GGB suicides occur at a rate of approximately 30 per year, with a lethality of 98%. Jumping from other structures has an average lethality of 47%. Assuming that unsuccessful suicides eventually committed suicide at previously reported (12-13%) rates, approximately 286 lives would be saved over a 20-year period at an average cost/life of approximately $180,419 i.e., roughly 6% of US Department of Transportation minimal VSL estimate ($3.2 million). Conclusions: Cost-benefit analysis suggests that a suicide barrier on the GGB would result in a highly cost-effective reduction in suicide mortality in the San Francisco Bay Area.