Excess suicide mortality of unemployed women: selection or causation?

Netta Mäki, University of Helsinki

This study analysed the association between employment and suicide among women by studying the length of unemployment during different levels of general unemployment. The data comprised annual population and death register information with over 1.9 million person-years among 25–64-year-old Finns in 1987–2003. The experience of unemployment in the previous year and at baseline was studied, and suicide was followed for twelve months. Suicide mortality was 2.5–4.5 -fold higher among the unemployed than among the stably employed, and adjustment for social class and living arrangements attenuated these differences only little. In contrast to results in total mortality, this excess suicide mortality remained very similar at different unemployment levels indicating small support for selection theory. The long-term unemployed mostly had the highest relative risks suggesting that when unemployment is prolonged it has causal effects that increase suicide as well.

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Presented in Poster Session 4: Health and ageing