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Int J Epidemiol. 1990 Jun;19(2):412-6.

Can changes in the unemployment rates explain the recent changes in suicide rates in developed countries?

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  • 1Department of Community Medicine, Dundee University Medical School, Ninewells Hospital, UK.


Data were collected on unemployment and suicide rates in 16 developed countries for 1973 and 1983 (suicide rates were three-year averages). Unemployment rates rose appreciably in men and women in all countries. Among men suicide rates rose in 14 of the countries whereas among women they did so in only seven. A mathematical model was developed to investigate, for those countries with increased suicide rates, how much of the increase could be contributed by an increase in the numbers unemployed. It was found that the proportion of the increase that could be 'explained' varied considerably between countries. In general the amount of the increase explained was small, and often a considerable increase in the suicide rates among those employed would be required to account for the observed increase in the suicide in the whole population. It is concluded that unemployment shows an inconsistent relationship with suicide. Further, if a relationship does exist in some countries the effect may be as much a generalized one on the whole population as a specific effect on the unemployed. Finally the possible effects of unemployment on suicide differ appreciably between men and women.

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