Several studies have reported a higher risk of suicide among the unemployed. Some individuals may be more prone to both unemployment and suicide due to an underlying health-related factor. In that case, suicide among the unemployed might be a consequence of health-related selection. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between unemployment and suicide, and the importance of previous sickness absence to this relationship.
The study was based on 771,068 adults aged 25-58 years in Stockholm County in 1990-1991. Data on sickness absence in 1990-1991 and unemployment in 1991-1993 were collected from registers for each individual. Time and cause of death in 1994-1995 were obtained from Sweden's Cause of Death Register.
The association between sickness absence in 1990-1991 and unemployment in 1992-1993, and the association between unemployment in 1992-1993 and suicide in 1994-1995 was investigated using logistic regression.
Unemployment lasting for >90 days in 1992-1993 was associated with suicide in men in 1994-1995 [odds ratio (OR) 2.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.38-3.38], while unemployment lasting for = 90 days in 1992-1993 was associated with suicide in women in 1994-1995 (OR 2.68, 95% CI 1.23-5.85). Higher levels of sickness absence were related to an increased risk of subsequent unemployment in both sexes. The higher prevalence of sickness absence among the unemployed attenuated the association between unemployment and suicide in both men and women.
Unemployment is related to suicide. Individuals in poor health are at increased risk of unemployment and also suicide. The higher relative risk of suicide among the unemployed seems to be, in part, a consequence of exclusion of less healthy individuals from the labour market.