Every year, unemployment drives around one in five suicides, says a study that included data from 63 countries between 2000 and 2011.
The countries were divided into four regions: North and South America, northern and western Europe, southern and eastern Europe, and Non-Americas and non-Europe.
No data was available from India or China.
“Despite country-specific particularities, we found a similarly strong association between unemployment and suicide rates in all four regions,” said lead author Carlos Nordt from the University of Zurich.
A changing unemployment rate affected both sex as well as different age groups equally, the findings showed.
“After the crisis year in 2008, the number of suicides increased short-term by 5,000 cases,” Nordt pointed out.
Other studies had already estimated this figure. What was not known, however, was that around 46,000 suicides overall were associated with unemployment that year.
“Therefore, suicides associated with unemployment totalled a nine-fold higher number of deaths than excess suicides attributed to the most recent economic crisis,” Nordt explained.
The impact of a change in unemployment on suicide was stronger in countries with a lower rather than with a higher pre-crisis unemployment rate.
Therefore, according to the researchers, investments in programmes that integrate people in the job market and promote a healthy work climate are also essential in countries with comparably lower unemployment rates.
These striking findings suggest that suicide prevention strategies need to target the negative health effects of unemployment in times of economic stability as well as during recession.