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Unemployment and suicide: a cohort analysis of social factors predicting suicide in the US National Longitudinal Mortality Study

    • Published online: 16 January 2001

Background. The purpose of the study was to examine the effect of employment status measured at baseline on the risk of suicide by years of follow-up, using a large nationally representative sample of the US population.

Methods. Cox regression models were applied to data from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study, based on the 1979–1989 follow-up. In estimating the effect of baseline employment status on suicide, adjustments were made for baseline demographic and socio-economic variables.

Results. After 3 years of follow-up, unemployed men were a little over twice as likely to commit suicide as their employed counterparts. Among men, the lower the socio-economic status, the higher the suicide risk. Among women, in each year of follow-up, the unemployed had a much higher suicide risk than the employed. After 9 years of follow-up unemployed women were over three times more likely to kill themselves than their employed counterparts.

Conclusions. Unemployment is strongly related to suicide, but this relationship is more enduring and stronger among women. For men, the unemployment effect is stronger at earlier years of follow-up. In women, unemployment increases the risk of suicide regardless of the number of follow-up years. The finding with regard to women disconfirms earlier research reports suggesting that unemployment affects suicide only in men.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Dr Augustine J. Kposowa, Department of Sociology, 1214 Watkins Hall, University of California, 900 University Avenue, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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