Study of 63 Countries Links Rising Unemployment Rates With Suicides

Rob Wipond

A rise in unemployment rates was linked to a rise in suicides in all regions of the world, according to research in The Lancet Psychiatry. The effect was most pronounced in countries that normally had relatively lower unemployment rates.

University of Zurich researchers analyzed public data from the WHO mortality database and the International Monetary Fund’s world economic outlook database from 2000 to 2011, and selected 63 countries “based on sample size and completeness of the respective data.”

Higher suicide rates were more strongly linked to unemployment rates than to times of economic recession specifically, and typically preceded a rise in unemployment by about 6 months. “In all world regions, the relative risk of suicide associated with unemployment was elevated by about 20–30% during the study period,” they wrote. “Overall, 41,148 suicides were associated with unemployment in 2007 and 46,131 in 2009, indicating 4,983 excess suicides since the economic crisis in 2008.”

“What is novel about the current paper is its longitudinal modelling of the international effect of unemployment at population level across a period that encompasses economic stability as well as the crisis and its aftermath,” stated an accompanying commentary. “This approach has enabled the authors to estimate the number of excess suicides attributable to unemployment per se, as well as the number specifically attributable to the recession and its wake. The nine-fold difference between these two values is striking. It implies that national and international suicide prevention strategies need to target the ill effects associated with unemployment in times of economic stability as well as during recession. The paper also highlights the fact that not all job losses necessarily have an equivalent effect, because the effect on suicide risk could be greatest in settings where being without work is fairly unusual.”

Nordt, Carlos, Ingeborg Warnke, Erich Seifritz, and Wolfram Kawohl. “Modelling Suicide and Unemployment: A Longitudinal Analysis Covering 63 Countries, 2000–11.” The Lancet Psychiatry. Accessed February 22, 2015. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00118-7. (Full text with free registration)

Webb, Roger T, and Navneet Kapur. “Suicide, Unemployment, and the Effect of Economic Recession.” The Lancet Psychiatry. Accessed February 22, 2015. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00129-1. (Full text with free registration)


  1. So I guess that being unemployed causes people’s brain chemicals to become unbalanced as a result of a predisposition toward depression that was exacerbated by the stress of being unable to eat or afford shelter or protect his/her family. Conclusion: people at risk of unemployment should receive prophylactic antidepressant treatment.

    Or perhaps we should work at reducing unemployment…

    — Steve