Social Indicators Research

, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 47–64 | Cite as

Explaining Changing Suicide Rates in Norway 1948–2004: The Role of Social Integration

  • Anders BarstadEmail author


Using Norway 1948–2004 as a case, I test whether changes in variables related to social integration can explain changes in suicide rates. The method is the Box-Jenkins approach to time-series analysis. Different aspects of family integration contribute significantly to the explanation of Norwegian suicide rates in this period. The estimated effect of separations is stronger than the effect of divorces, both for men and women, probably because separations are closer in time to the “real” marital breakup. This difference has not been demonstrated in earlier time-series research. Marriages decrease the suicide rates for males. The unemployment estimate for men has a negative sign, contributing to fewer suicides. Both increasing alcohol (beer) consumption and fewer marriages seem to be implicated in the soaring suicide rate for young men since 1970.


Suicide Social integration Norway Time-series Separations Family integration 



I wish to thank Arne Mastekaasa, Lise Kjølsrød and an anonymous reviewer for valuable comments to earlier versions of this article, and Finn Gjertsen for helpful discussions and assistance in finding the appropriate data. A special thank is due to the late Ole-Jørgen Skog, whose helpfulness and expertise in these matters was greatly appreciated by the author. Lastly, I would like to thank the Research Council of Norway and Statistics Norway for funding the project


  1. Amato, P. R. (2000). The consequences of divorce for adults and children. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1269–1287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andreasson, S., Holder, H. D., Norström, T., Österberg, E., & Rossow, I. (2006). Estimates of harm associated with changes in Swedish alcohol policy: Results from past and present estimates. Addiction, 101, 1096–1105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andrés, A. R. (2005). Income inequality, unemployment, and suicide: A panel data analysis of 15 European countries. Applied Economics, 37, 439–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M.R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown, S. L. (2000). The effect of union type on psychological well-being: Depression among cohabitors versus marrieds. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 41, 241–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, S. L. (2003). Relationship quality dynamics of cohabiting unions. Journal of Family Issues, 24, 583–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Caces, F., & Harford, T. (1998). Time series analysis of alcohol consumption and suicide mortality in the United States, 1934–1987. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 59, 455–461.Google Scholar
  8. Chilcoat, H. D., & Breslau, N. (1996). Alcohol disorders in young adulthood: Effects of transitions into adult roles. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 37, 339–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, R. (2004). Interaction ritual chains. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cutler, D. M., Glaeser E. L., & Norberg K. E. (2000). Explaining the rise in youth suicide. Working Paper 7713 Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  11. Cutright, P., & Fernquist, R. M. (2000). Effects of societal integration, period, region, and culture of suicide on male age-specific suicide rates: 20 Developed countries, 1955–1989. Social Science Research, 29, 148–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dark, S., & Ross, J. (2002). Review: Suicide among heroin users: Rates, risk factors and methods. Addiction, 97, 1383–1394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Department of Health and Social Services. (1995). Alkoholpolitikken i endring? NOU 1995: 24 Oslo: Statens forvaltningstjeneste.Google Scholar
  14. Diener, E. (1995). A value based index for measuring national quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 36, 109–127.Google Scholar
  15. Diener, E., & Diener, C. (1995). The wealth of nations revisited: income and quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 36, 275–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Duberstein, P. R., Conwell, Y., Conner, K. R., Eberly, S., Evinger, J. S., & Caine, E. D. (2004). Poor social integration and suicide: Fact or artifact? A case-control study. Psychological Medicine, 34, 1331–1337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Durkheim, E. [1897](2000). Suicide. A study in sociology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Giertsen, J. C., & Morild, I. (1993). Pålitligheten av den norske selvmordsstatistikken. Nordisk Medicine, 108, 58–59.Google Scholar
  19. Gjertsen, F. (1987). Selvmord i Norge. Thesis in sociology Spring 1987 Oslo: University of Oslo.Google Scholar
  20. Gjertsen, F. (2004). Utviklingstendenser i selvmord. Datagrunnlag, kvalitet og sammenlignbarhet. Göteborg: Nordiska hälsovårdshögskolan, MPH 2003: 33.Google Scholar
  21. Gmel, G., Rehm, J., & Ghazinouri, A. (1998). Alcohol and suicide in Switzerland—an aggregate-level analysis. Drug and Alcohol Review, 17, 27–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gruenewald, P. J., Ponicki, W. R., & Mitchell, P. R. (1995). Suicide rates and alcohol consumption in the United States, 1970–89. Addiction, 90, 1063–1075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gunnell, D., Middleton, N., Whitley, E., Doring, D., & Frankel, S. (2003). Why are suicide rates rising in young men but falling in the elderly? A time series analysis of trends in England and Wales 1950–1998. Social Science and Medicine, 57, 595–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Halvorsen, K. (1998). Impact of re-employment on psychological distress among long-term unemployed. Acta Sociologica, 41, 227–242.Google Scholar
  25. Heikkinen, M., Hillevi, A., & Lönnqvist, J. (1993). Review article: Life events and social support in suicide. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 23, 343–358.Google Scholar
  26. Horverak, Ø., Nordlund, S., & Rossow, I. (2001). Om sentrale deler av norsk alkoholpolitikk. Oslo: Statens institutt for rusmiddelforskning.Google Scholar
  27. Horverak, Ø. (2006). Det norske drikkemønsteret—under endring? In A. Bryhni (Ed.), Alcohol and drugs in Norway 2006 (pp. 16–49). Oslo: Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research.Google Scholar
  28. Høyer, G., & Lund, E. (1993). Suicide among women related to number of children in marriage. Archives of General Psychiatry, 50, 134-137. Google Scholar
  29. Joiner, T. J., Brown, J. S., & Wingate, L. R. (2005). The psychology and neurobiology of suicidal behavior. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 287–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jones, L. (1988). Unemployment and social integration: A review. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 15, 161–176.Google Scholar
  31. Kposowa, A. J., Breault, K. D., & Singh, G. K. (1995). White male suicide in the United States: A multivariate individual-level analysis. Social Forces, 74, 315–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kposowa, A. (2001). Unemployment and suicide: A cohort analysis of social factors predicting suicide in the US national longitudinal mortality study. Psychological Medicine, 31, 127–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kung, H., Pearson, J. L., & Liu, X. (2003). Risk factors for male and female suicide decedents ages 15–64 in the United States. Results from the 1993 National mortality followback survey. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 38, 419–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lester, D., & Yang, B. (1998). Suicide and homicide in the 20th century: Changes over time. New York: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  35. Lucey, S., Corcoran, P., Keeley, H. S., Brophy, J., Arensman, E., & Perry, I. J. (2005). Socioeconomic change and suicide. A time-series study from the Republic of Ireland. Crisis, 26, 90–94.Google Scholar
  36. Mamelund, S. E., Brunborg, H., & Noack, T. (1997). Divorce in Norway 1886–1995 by calendar year and marriage cohort. Oslo: Report 97/19, Statistics Norway.Google Scholar
  37. Mastekaasa, A. (1993). Does marriage protect the individual: The case of unemployment and subjective well-being. Sosiologisk Tidsskrift, 3, 193–211.Google Scholar
  38. Mastekaasa, A. (1995). Marital dissolution and subjective distress: Panel evidence. European Sociological Review, 11, 173–185.Google Scholar
  39. Mirowsky, J., & Ross, C. E. (2003). Social causes of psychological distress (2nd edn). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  40. Neumayer, E. (2004). Recessions lower (some) mortality rates: Evidence from Germany. Social Science and Medicine, 58, 1037–1047.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Norström, T. (1995). The impact of alcohol, divorce, and unemployment on suicide: A multilevel analysis. Social Forces, 74, 293–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Norström, T., & Rossow, I. (1999). Beverage specific effects on suicide. Nordisk Alkohol- & Narkotikatidskrift, 16(English Supplement), 109–118.Google Scholar
  43. Norström, T., & Skog, O. J. (2001). Alcohol and mortality: Methodological and analytical issues in aggregate analyses. Addiction, 96(Suppl. 1), S5–S17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pearson-Nelson, B. J., Raffalovich, L. E., & Bjarnason, T. B. (2004). The effects of changes in the world health organization’s international classification of diseases on suicide rates in 71 countries, 1950–1999. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 34, 328–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pedersen, W. (1998). Bittersøtt. Ungdom, sosialisering, rusmidler. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.Google Scholar
  46. Pescosolido, B. A., & Georgianna, S. (1989). Durkheim, suicide and religion: Toward a network theory of suicide. American Sociological Review, 54, 33–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pihl, A., & Starrin, B. (1998). Ekonomiska påfrestningar, socialt stöd och ohälsa—en prövning av ekonomi-sosiale band modellen. Socialmedisinsk Tidsskrift, 75, 297–304.Google Scholar
  48. Platt, S., & Hawton, K. (2000). Suicidal behaviour and the labour market. In K. Hawton & L. van Heeringen (Eds.), The international handbook of suicide and attempted suicide (pp. 309–384). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.Google Scholar
  49. Power, C., Rodgers, B., & Hope, S. (1999). Research report. Heavy alcohol consumption and marital status: Disentangling the relationship in a national study of young adults. Addiction, 94, 1477–1487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Qin, P., Agerbo, E., & Mortensen, P. B. (2003). Suicide risk in relation to socioeconomic, demographic, psychiatric, and familial factors: A national register-based study of all suicides in Denmark, 1981–1997. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 765–772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ramstedt, M. (2001). Alcohol and suicide in 14 European countries. Addiction, 96(Suppl. 1), S59–S75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ramstedt, M. (2005). Alcohol and suicide at the population level—the Canadian experience. Drug and Alcohol Review, 24, 203–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rossow, I. (1993). Suicide, alcohol, and divorce; aspects of gender and family integration. Addiction, 88, 1659–1665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rossow, I. (1996). Alcohol and suicide—beyond the link at the individual level. Addiction, 91, 1413–1416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rossow, I., & Lauritzen, G. (1999). Research report. Balancing on the edge of death: Suicide attempts and life-threathening overdoses among drug addicts. Addiction, 94, 202–219.Google Scholar
  56. Rossow, I., Grøholt, B., & Wichstrøm, L. (2005). Intoxicants and suicidal behaviour among adolescents: Changes in levels and associations from 1992 to 2002. Addiction, 100, 79–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ruhm, C. J., & Black, W. E. (2002). Does drinking really decrease in bad times? Journal of Health Economics, 21, 659–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Skog, O. J. (1986). Trends in alcohol consumption and violent deaths. British Journal of Addiction, 81, 365–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Skog, O. J. (1991). Alcohol and suicide—Durkheim revisited. Acta Sociologica, 34, 193–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stack, S. (1989). The impact of divorce on suicide in Norway, 1951–1980. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 51, 229–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stack, S., & Wasserman, I. (1993). Marital status, alcohol consumption, and suicide: An analysis of national data. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55, 1018–1024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Stack, S. (2000). Suicide: A 15-year review of the sociological literature. Part I: Cultural and economic factors. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 30, 145–162.Google Scholar
  63. Stack, S. (2000). Suicide: A 15-year review of the sociological literature. Part II: Modernization and social integration perspectives. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 30, 163–176.Google Scholar
  64. Stockard, J., & O′Brien, R. M. (2002). Cohort effects on suicide rates: International variations. American Sociological Review, 67, 854–872.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Thoits, P. A. (1983). Multiple identities and psychological well-being: A reformulation and test of the social isolation hypothesis. American Sociological Review, 48, 174–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Turner, J. H., & Stets, J. E. (2005). The sociology of emotions. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  67. UNDP. (2006). Human development report 2006. New York: United Nations Development Programme.Google Scholar
  68. Wasserman, I. M (1989): The effects of war and alcohol consumption patterns on suicide: United States, 1910–1933. Social Forces, 68, 513–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Willitts, M., Benzeval, M., & Stansfeld, S. (2004). Partnership history and mental health over time. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 48, 53–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Yang, B. (1992). The economy and suicide: A time-series study of the U.S.A. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 51, 87–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division for Demographic and Social ResearchStatistics NorwayOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations