Unemployment May Fuel a Fifth of Suicides Worldwide, Study Says

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Being jobless may play a role in about one-fifth of suicides worldwide each year, a new study suggests.

Swiss researchers analyzed data from 63 countries in four regions of the world, and found that unemployment was associated with a 20 percent to 30 percent increased risk of suicide.

Between 2000 and 2011, suicides in all the countries totaled about 233,000 a year, and being jobless was linked with about 45,000 (one-fifth) of those suicides.

While the number of unemployment-related suicides increased by about 5,000 during the recent economic crisis in 2008, this analysis shows the risk of suicide among jobless people is high even in good economic times, according to the authors of the study published Feb. 10 in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The results suggest that the harmful mental effects of unemployment need to be taken into account in suicide prevention strategies during good and bad economic times, the researchers said.

They also found that both men and women of all ages were equally vulnerable to the effects of job loss.

"Our findings reveal that the suicide rate increases six months before a rise in unemployment. What is more, our data suggest that not all job losses necessarily have an equal impact, as the effect on suicide risk appears to be stronger in countries where being out of work is uncommon," said study author Carlos Nordt, of the Psychiatric University Hospital at the University of Zurich.

"Besides specific therapeutic interventions, sufficient investment by governments in active labor market policies that enhance the efficiency of labor markets could help generate additional jobs and reduce the unemployment rate, helping to offset the impact on suicide," Nordt said in a journal news release.

Even people who remain employed during tough economic times may have severe mental stress due to factors such as falling income, job insecurity and debt, according to a commentary accompanying the study, written by Roger Webb and Dr. Navneet Kapur, of the University of Manchester in England.

Along with learning more about how job and money struggles can harm people's mental health, researchers also need to find out how some people with severe economic problems manage to maintain their mental health, Webb and Kapur added.

More information

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers tips for getting through tough economic times.