Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Unemployment and suicidal behaviour: A review of the literature


Author Info

  • Platt, Stephen
Registered author(s):


    In order to provide a framework for reviewing the voluminous literature on unemployment and suicidal behaviour, the author distinguishes between two categories of deliberately self-harmful act: those with fatal outcome (suicide) and those with non-fatal outcome (parasuicide); and differentiates four major types of quantitative research report: individual--cross-sectional; aggregate--cross-sectional; individual-longitudinal; and aggregate-longitudinal. Methodological issues and empirical research findings are discussed separately for each type of study and each category of deliberate self-harm. Cross-sectional individual studies reveal that significantly more parasuicides and suicides are unemployed than would be expected among general population samples. Likewise, parasuicide and suicide rates among the unemployed are always considerably higher than among the employed. Aggregate--cross-sectional studies provide no evidence of a consistent relationship between unemployment and completed suicide, but a significant geographical association between unemployment and parasuicide was found. Results from all but one of the individual longitudinal studies point to significantly more unemployment, job instability and occupational problems among suicides compared to non-suicides. The aggregate longitudinal analyses reveal a significant positive association between unemployment and suicide in the United States of America and some European countries. The negative relationship in Great Britain during the 1960s and early 1970s has been shown to result from a unique decline in suicide rates due to the unavailability of the most common method of suicide. However, despite the firm evidence of an association between unemployment and suicidal behaviour, the nature of this association remains highly problematic. On the basis of the available data, the author suggests that macro-economic conditions, although not directly influencing the suicide rate, may nevertheless constitute an important antecedent variable in the causal chain leading to self-harmful behaviour. Further empirical research based on a longitudinal design is recommeded as a matter of urgency so that a more definitive assessment of the aetiological significance of unemployment in parasuicide may be made.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 19 (1984)
    Issue (Month): 2 (January)
    Pages: 93-115

    as in new window
    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:19:y:1984:i:2:p:93-115

    Contact details of provider:
    Web page:

    Order Information:

    Related research



    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as in new window

    Cited by:
    1. Jahyeong Koo & W. Michael Cox, 2006. "An economic interpretation of suicide cycles in Japan," Working Papers 0603, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
    2. Rosalba Jasso Vargas, 2013. "La dimensión espacial del suicidio y su vínculo con el mercado laboral mexicano (2000-2004)," REVISTA FACULTAD DE CIENCIAS ECONÓMICAS, UNIVERSIDAD MILITAR NUEVA GRANADA.
    3. Roger Bjørnstad, 2001. "Learned Helplessness, Discouraged Workers, and Multiple Unemployment Equilibria in a Search Model," Discussion Papers 303, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
    4. Ross, Justin M. & Yakovlev, Pavel A. & Carson, Fatima, 2012. "Does state spending on mental health lower suicide rates?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 408-417.
    5. Balázs Szentes & Caroline D. Thomas, 2013. "An Evolutionary Theory of Suicide," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(3), pages 426-436, August.
    6. Goldsmith, Arthur H. & Veum, Jonathan R. & Darity, William Jr., 1996. "The psychological impact of unemployment and joblessness," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 333-358.
    7. Christian Breuer & Horst Rottmann, 2014. "Do Labor Market Institutions Influence Suicide Mortality? An International Panel Data Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 4875, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Chen, Ping-Yu & Chang, Chia-Lin & Chen, Chi-Chung, 2010. "Estimating the Impacts of Climate Change on Mortality in OECD Countries," MPRA Paper 27915, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Bjornstad, Roger, 2006. "Learned helplessness, discouraged workers, and multiple unemployment equilibria," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 458-475, June.
    10. Hourani, Laurel L. & Davidson, Lucy & Clinton-Sherrod, Monique & Patel, Nita & Marshall, Maureen & Crosby, Alex E., 2006. "Suicide prevention and community-level indictors," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 377-385, November.
    11. Minoiu, Camelia & Andres, Antonio Rodriguez, 2008. "The effect of public spending on suicide: Evidence from U.S. state data," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 237-261, February.


    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


    Access and download statistics


    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:19:y:1984:i:2:p:93-115. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.