1 in 5 Suicides Linked to Unemployment, Researchers Find

By Unemployment-Extension.org | March 3, 2015 at 11:35 PM |

Losing a job can cause a personal crisis. Unemployment is the cause of approximately 45,000 suicides annually, according to a new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

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The study, which examined suicides between 2000 and 2011, found that of the roughly 233,000 suicides that took place annually, approximately 20% were linked to unemployment. Furthermore, the study found that the number of suicides related to unemployment actually rose during the period of the 11-year study by between 20% and 30%.

The Link Between Suicide and Unemployment

The lead author of the study, Dr. Carlos Nordt of Switzerland’s University of Zurich Psychiatric Hospital, and his colleagues assessed data from the World Health Organization (WHO) mortality database and the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook database.

The organization used longitudinal modeling to calculate the impact that unemployment had on suicide in 63 countries in four regions of the world between 2000 and 2011. A diverse mix of countries was studied, including US, UK, and Canada.

It should be noted that the team examined suicide rates during times of economic stability as well as an economic crisis. This is critical, as it is commonly believed that the economic crisis often triggers suicides. However, the team found that unemployment is linked to nine times the number of suicides as an economic crisis.

Particularly, individuals are more likely to commit suicide after losing their job than they are after going through an economic crisis (such as a recession or a stock market crash). The team also noted that the unemployment-related suicides tend to rise about six months before any notable increase in unemployment rates.

However, the risk of suicide was not equal across all 63 of the countries studied. The team noted that the risk of suicide was the greatest in countries where unemployment was comparatively uncommon.

“The data suggest that not all job losses inevitably have an equal result, as the effect on suicide risk seems to be stronger in countries where being out of work is uncommon,” they explained. “It is conceivable that an unexpected jump in the unemployment rate may trigger greater fears of insecurity than in the nations with higher pre-crisis unemployment levels.”

Government Intervention Can Mitigate the Risk of Unemployment-Related Suicide

Understanding suicide is critical. According to the WHO, an estimated 800,000 people around the world commit suicide each year, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 and 29. An increased understanding of the specific economic factors that cause individuals to take their own life can help governments and organizations take steps to better identify and reach out to at-risk populations.

The team particularly noted that appropriate government intervention could help mitigate the risk of unemployment-related suicide. The researchers noticed that therapeutic interventions were important to help those at risk and pointed out that an increased understanding of highly resilient individuals who don’t experience depression in the face of extreme economic adversity could help understandings of how humans cope with economic crisis.

However, the team also pointed out that government investment in active labor market policies is helpful in reducing the risk of suicide. They argued that policies that improve the efficiency of labor markets could help create additional jobs and decrease the unemployment rate. This strategy would consecutively help reducing the risk of suicide.

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