Skip to main content

Social Factors in Suicide

  • Martti E. Heikkinen (a1), Erkki T. Isometsä (a2), Mauri J. Marttunen (a1), Hillevi M. Aro (a3) and Jouko K. Lönnqvist (a2)...

The study objective was to investigate the age-related variation of social factors in suicide.


Age-related variations in marital status, living arrangements, employment and social interaction were investigated in an entire 12-month suicide population in Finland (n = 1067); these findings were compared with appropriate census data.


Several social factors varied across age groups among suicides, with some age-related sex differences. Compared with the general population, the suicides were more commonly never married (especially men aged 30–39 years), divorced, and widowed (especially women aged 60–69 years); living alone was more frequent among the suicides, as was living with parents among male suicides aged 25–39 years. A history of psychiatric admission was especially common among young male suicides who had never married or were living with parents. Living alone was particularly frequent among middle-aged male suicides who had misused alcohol.


While most of the age-related variation in social factors found in suicide seems to parallel the natural variation of these factors in the general population, some social findings in suicide might be related to the victims' psychopathology and excessive alcohol use.

Corresponding author
Dr Martti Heikkinen, Department of Mental Health, National Public Health Institute, Mannerheimintie 166, FIN-00300 Helsinki, Finland
Hide All
Barraclough, B. M. & Pallis, D. J. (1975) Depression followed by suicide: a comparison of depressed suicides with living depressives. Psychological Medicine, 5, 5561.
Buda, M. & Tsuang, M. T. (1990) The epidemiology of suicide: implications for clinical practice. In Suicide Over the Life Cycle: Risk Factors, Assessment, and Treatment of Suicidal Patients (eds Blumenthal, S. J. & Kupfer, D. J.), pp. 1738. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Chynoweth, R., Tonoe, J. I. & Armstrong, J. (1980) Suicide in Brisbane – a retrospective psychosocial study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 14, 3745.
Clark, D. C. (1993) Narcissistic crises of aging and suicidal despair. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 23, 2126.
Conwell, Y., Rotenberg, M. & Caine, E. D. (1990) Completed suicide at age 50 and over. Journal of American Geriatrics Society, 38, 640644.
Heikkinen, M., Aro, H. & Lönnqvist, J. (1994) Recent life events, social support and suicide. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 89 (suppl. 337), 6572.
Heikkinen, M. E., Isometsä, E. T., Aro, H. M., et al (1995) Age-related variation in recent life events preceding suicide. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 183, 325331.
H⊘yer, G. & Lund, E. (1993) Suicide among females related to number of children in marriage. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 134137.
Litman, R. E., Curphey, T., Shneidman, E. S., et al (1963) Investigations of equivocal suicides. Journal of the American Medical Association, 184, 924929.
Maris, R. W. (1981) Social relations of suicide: isolation, negative interaction, and sexual deviance. In Pathways to Suicide (ed. Maris, R. W.), pp. 100134. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Marttunen, M. J., Aro, H. M., Henriksson, M. M., et al (1991) Mental disorders in adolescent suicide. DSM–III–R Axes I and II diagnoses in suicides among 13- to 19-year-olds in Finland. Archives of General Psychiatry, 48, 834839.
Murphy, G. E. & Robins, E. (1967) Social factors in suicide. Journal of the American Medical Association, 199, 303308.
Murphy, G. E., Wetzel, R. D., Robins, E., et al (1992) Multiple risk factors predict suicide in alcoholism. Archives of General Psychiatry, 49, 459463.
Rich, C. L., Young, D. & Fowler, R. C. (1986) San Diego suicide study I: young vs. old subjects. Archives of General Psychiatry, 43, 577582.
Robins, E., Gassner, S., Kayes, J., et al (1959) The communication of suicidal intent: a study of 134 consecutive cases of successful (completed) suicide. American Journal of Psychiatry, 115, 724733.
Statistics Finland (1989) Official Statistics of Finland 1987. Helsinki: Statistics Finland (in Finnish).
Statistics Finland (1992) Official Statistics of Finland 1990. Helsinki: Statistics Finland (in Finnish).
Statistics Finland (1994) Official Statistics of Finland 1992. Helsinki: Statistics Finland (in Finnish).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 62 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 223 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 2nd January 2018 - 22nd June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Social Factors in Suicide

  • Martti E. Heikkinen (a1), Erkki T. Isometsä (a2), Mauri J. Marttunen (a1), Hillevi M. Aro (a3) and Jouko K. Lönnqvist (a2)...
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *