1. Suicides associated with unemployment contributed to roughly a 9-fold higher number of suicides in 2009 following the 2008 global economic crisis than in the pre-crisis years.
2. Higher effects of unemployment on suicide rate were noted in regions in which unemployment was lower at baseline than in those for which unemployment was higher at baseline.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Study Rundown: The 2008 world economic downturn rekindled the debate over the effect of unemployment on suicide. This study aimed to retrospectively identify effects of unemployment on suicide by analyzing global data classified by world regions. Sex-specific and age-specific suicide rates were extracted from the WHO mortality database for 63 countries and analyzed in conjunction with economic indicators to ascertain any relationship between suicide and unemployment. The analysis found that suicides associated with unemployment contributed to roughly a 9-fold higher number of suicides in 2009 than in the pre-crisis. The final model estimated that suicides associated with unemployment make up about 20% of all suicides, and that the relative risk of suicide associated with unemployment between 2000 and 2011 was elevated by 20-30% in all world regions. This study is strong due to its assessment of global data, yet was limited by the incompleteness of data from select regions, which could lead to underestimates of suicide rates.
The study was funded by University of Zurich.
In-Depth [retrospective cohort]: This study aimed to globally analyze the effects of unemployment on rate of suicide by world region. Data for number of suicides per 100,000 in the population were analyzed for 63 countries and split into four regions – Americas, Northern and Western Europe, Southern and Eastern Europe, and non-Americas and non-Europe. These estimates were considered in four age categories by sex: 15-24, 25-44, 45-64- and 65 years and older and investigated in conjunction with 4 economic indicators corresponding to unemployment from the International Monetary Fund’s world economic outlook database.
In general, the results demonstrated that a rise in unemployment is linked to increased suicides. The changing unemployment rate affected both sexes as well as different age groups equally in all 4 regions analyzed. The final model estimated that a total of about 233,000 suicides happen each year, and that unemployment is associated with about 45,000, comprising about 20% annually. Unemployment-associated suicides comprised 41,148 (95% CI 39,552-42,744) in 2007 and 46,131 (44,292–47,970) in 2009, corresponding to an excess of 4,983 compared to the pre-crisis year.
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