Economically inactive, unemployed and employed suicides in Australia by age and sex over a 10-year period: what was the impact of the 2007 economic recession?

Int J Epidemiol. 2014 Oct;43(5):1500-7. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyu148. Epub 2014 Jul 26.


Background: Suicide is higher among economically inactive and unemployed persons than employed persons. This paper investigates differences in this relationship by sex and age over the period 2001 to 2010 in Australia. It also examines changes in suicide among employed, unemployed and economically inactive persons during the recession of 2007-09.

Method: Suicide data from the National Coroners Information System were utilised for this retrospective study. Negative binomial and Poisson regression was used to estimate the association between suicide and employment status and to investigate differences in suicide rates over the period of the recession (2007-09) compared with the year before the recession (2006).

Results: Results suggest that during 2001-10 economically inactive/unemployed males had a suicide rate ratio (RR) of 4.62 [95% confidence interval (CI) 4.10, 5.19; P<0.001] compared with employed males (RR=1.00), whereas economically inactive/unemployed females had a suicide RR of 8.44 compared with employed females (95% CI 7.38, 9.67; P<0.001). There was an increase in suicide among both employed (7% rise in 2007, P=0.003) and economically inactive/unemployed males during the GFC (22% in 2008, P<0.001). Suicide also increased among economically inactive/unemployed females (12% in 2007, P=0.03; 19% in 2008, P=0.001) but not among employed females.

Conclusions: These results suggest the need for adequate policy and social welfare responses to ameliorate the effects of the economic recession on the working age population. Particularly, these should target unemployed and economically inactive men and women in Australia, who may be at higher risk of suicide than previously thought.

Keywords: Recession; economic inactivity; employed; suicide; unemployment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Economic Recession*
  • Employment / economics
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Suicide / economics
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Unemployment / psychology
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult