Psychosocial job stressors and suicidality: a meta-analysis and systematic review

Occup Environ Med. 2018 Apr;75(4):245-253. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2017-104531. Epub 2017 Aug 29.


Objectives: Job stressors are known determinants of common mental disorders. Over the past 10 years, there has been evidence that job stressors may also be risk factors for suicidality. The current paper sought to examine this topic through the first comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature to date.

Methods: We used a three-tier search strategy of seven electronic databases. Studies were included if they reported on a job stressor or job-related stress as an exposure and suicide ideation, self-harm, suicide attempt or suicide as an outcome. Two researchers independently screened articles. All extracted effect estimates were converted to log-transformed ORs.

Results: There were 22 studies that were included in meta-analysis. Overall, exposure to job stressors was associated with elevated risk of suicide ideation and behaviours. The OR for suicide ideation (14 studies) ranged from 1.45 (95% CI 1.01 to 2.08) for poor supervisor and colleague support to 1.91 (95% CI 1.22 to 2.99) for job insecurity. For suicide (six studies), exposure to lower supervisor and collegial support produced an OR of 1.16 (95% CI 0.98 to 1.38), while low job control resulted in an OR of 1.23 (95% CI 1.00 to 1.50). There were only two studies that examined suicide attempt, both of which suggested an adverse effect of exposure to job stressors.

Conclusions: This study provides some evidence that job stressors may be related to suicidal outcomes. However, as most studies in the area were cross-sectional and observational in design, there is a need for longitudinal research to assess the robustness of observed associations.

Keywords: employment; job control; job demands; job stress; self-harm; suicide; work.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Occupational Stress / epidemiology
  • Occupational Stress / psychology*
  • Psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data