Do generous unemployment benefit programs reduce suicide rates? A state fixed-effect analysis covering 1968-2008

Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Jul 1;180(1):45-52. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu106. Epub 2014 Jun 17.


The recent economic recession has led to increases in suicide, but whether US state unemployment insurance programs ameliorate this association has not been examined. Exploiting US state variations in the generosity of benefit programs between 1968 and 2008, we tested the hypothesis that more generous unemployment benefit programs reduce the impact of economic downturns on suicide. Using state linear fixed-effect models, we found a negative additive interaction between unemployment rates and benefits among the US working-age (20-64 years) population (β = -0.57, 95% confidence interval: -0.86, -0.27; P < 0.001). The finding of a negative additive interaction was robust across multiple model specifications. Our results suggest that the impact of unemployment rates on suicide is offset by the presence of generous state unemployment benefit programs, though estimated effects are small in magnitude.

Keywords: recession; social epidemiology; suicide; unemployment; unemployment benefits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Economic Recession / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance Benefits / economics
  • Insurance Benefits / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Security / economics
  • Social Security / statistics & numerical data
  • State Government
  • Suicide / economics
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Unemployment / psychology*
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult