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Suicide, deprivation, and unemployment: record linkage study

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 07 November 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1283
  1. Glyn Lewisa (wpcghl{at}, professor of community and epidemiological psychiatry,
  2. Andy Sloggettb, lecturer in medical demography
  1. aDivision of Psychological Medicine, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff CF4 4XN
  2. bCentre for Population Studies, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Lewis


    Abstract Objectives : To investigate the association between suicide and socioeconomic status, unemployment, and chronic illness.

    Design : Longitudinal study.

    Setting : England and Wales.

    Subjects : Individuals from the Office for National Statistics longitudinal study for whom 1981 census data were available. The longitudinal study is a representative 1% sample of the population of England and Wales in which census variables are linked to mortality data.

    Main outcome measures : Suicide and undetermined deaths occurring between 1983 and 1992. Odds ratios estimated with logistic regression adjusted for attrition of cohort members.

    Results : There was a strong independent association between suicide and individuals who were unemployed (odds ratio 2.6; 95% confidence interval 2.0 to 3.4) and permanently sick (2.5; 1.6 to 4.0). Those without access to a car had an increased risk (1.3; 1.0 to 1.5), but other measures of socioeconomic status were not associated with suicide.

    Conclusions : The association between suicide and unemployment is more important than the association with other socioeconomic measures. Although some potentially important confounders were not adjusted for, the findings support the idea that unemployment or lack of job security increases the risk of suicide and that social and economic policies that reduce unemployment will also reduce the rate of suicide.


    • Funding Research and Development Division, Policy Research Programme, Department of Health.

    • Conflict of interest None declared.

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