Economic fluctuations and suicide: a comparison of Taiwan and Hong Kong

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Dec;71(12):2083-90. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.09.043. Epub 2010 Oct 21.


This study examines the impact of unemployment on suicide rates in Taiwan and Hong Kong during the period of rising unemployment (1997-2003) and its subsequent decline (2003-2007), with 2003 as the turning point. During these initial years of high unemployment, suicide rates increased markedly in Hong Kong and Taiwan; however, as employment conditions improved, suicide rates fell in Hong Kong but continued to increase in Taiwan. ARMAX time-series models with appropriate time lags were used to assess the impact of unemployment on suicide rates for both periods. It was found that for Taiwan, the unemployment rate was positively related with the suicide rate for both males and females during the period of high unemployment, whereas a negative relationship was observed as the rate of unemployment decreased. On the other hand, the reduction in suicide rates since 2003 was not statistically significantly related to the improvement of employment conditions for Hong Kong; whereas the suicide rate in Taiwan still remained at a high level due to the increasing number of charcoal burning suicide deaths despite improvements in employment conditions. In conclusion, lower unemployment was not necessarily associated with lower suicide rates. Exogenous factors other than economic ones have been suggested to be important for understanding differences in suicide patterns in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The impact of employment conditions on suicide across different countries deserves further investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / mortality
  • Charcoal
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Economic Development / statistics & numerical data
  • Economic Development / trends
  • Economic Recession / statistics & numerical data
  • Economic Recession / trends
  • Empirical Research
  • Female
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Suicide / economics
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide / trends
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Unemployment / trends
  • Young Adult


  • Charcoal