Socio-economic determinants of suicide: an ecological analysis of 35 countries

  • Allison MilnerEmail author
  • Rod McClure
  • Diego De Leo
Original Paper



A long tradition of research has shown a relationship between suicide rates and socio-economic factors. However, most investigations have neglected to account for country-specific influences. The purpose of this study was to clarify the association between socio-economic variables and gender-specific suicide rates in 35 countries, using analytic techniques able to control for effects embedded within different country contexts.


Data relating to male and female age-standardised suicide rates (obtained from the WHO Statistical Information System) were analysed using fixed-effect regression. The possible associations between suicide rates and social variables were tested using data for 35 countries over the period 1980–2006.


Findings indicated that higher male and female suicide rates were associated with increased female labour force participation, unemployment, and the proportion of persons over 65 years. Reductions in male and female suicide rates were associated with increased health spending per capita. The study also revealed that higher fertility was associated with a reduction in male suicide. Female labour force participation had a stronger effect on male suicide rates.


The results of this study suggest that variables related to the labour market and the economy were better explanatory factors of suicide rates than population-level indicators of interpersonal relationships. Although results were generally similar for males and females, males appeared to be more sensitive to changes in the social environment than women.


Social variables Economic variables Suicide Ecological observations Fixed-effect regression 



This study was funded by Australian Rotary Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Suicide PreventionGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Monash University Accident Research Centre, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Violence, Injuries and DisabilitiesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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