Unemployment and underemployment are causes of suicide

By Adam Skinner, Nathaniel D. Osgood, Jo-An Occhipinti, Yun Ju Christine Song, and Ian B. Hickie

Published 12 July 2023

Key findings:

Suicide mortality is significantly impacted by underemployment or unemployment, and it is recommended that a holistic approach that includes an individual's employment status should be adopted when determining the risk of suicide.

What’s the issue

Suicide is a public health issue impacting individuals, families and communities, with several factors being identified as contributing to suicide. However, a significant number of studies have been published that suggest a link between unemployment and suicide, though the complexity of the factors involved has limited researchers' ability to claim a causal relationship.

What was done?

Researchers applied a convergent cross-mapping test for causal effects of the causal relationship and effect of unemployment and underemployment on suicidal behaviour. The study used monthly data sets on labour underutilisation rates and suicide mortality in Australia from 2004 to 2016.

What was found?

Researchers found statistically significant results showing that suicide mortality was significantly impacted by underemployment or unemployment. Approximately one in ten of the 32,329 suicides predicted over the study period (2004–2016, inclusive) are estimated to result from labour underutilisation (3071 suicides or 9.5%).

Why are findings important?

Transitions from employment to unemployment tend to increase psychological distress significantly. Unemployment and underemployment are linked to other factors that may increase suicide risk, such as poor psychological health, financial hardship, perceived change in social status, and reduced social connections within a workplace.

Suicide prevention should consider a holistic approach that includes employment status when determining suicide risk for an individual.