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

Psychol Med. 2001 Jan;31(1):127-38. doi: 10.1017/s0033291799002925.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Unemployment*
  • United States / epidemiology