Social capital and suicide in 11 European countries: an ecological analysis

  • Brendan D. KellyEmail author
  • Mary Davoren
  • Áine Ní Mhaoláin
  • Eugene G. Breen
  • Patricia Casey
Original Paper



“Social capital” refers to the existence of voluntary community networks and relationships based on trust, and the use of these networks and relationships to enable positive social action. Social capital is positively associated with selected indices of mental health.


We performed an ecological investigation of the relationship between social trust (as one component of social capital) and national suicide rates in 11 European countries (n = 22,227).


There was an inverse relationship between social trust and national suicide rates (i.e. the higher the social trust, the lower was the suicide rate), after controlling for gender, age, marriage rates, standardised income and reported sadness.


Social capital may have a protective effect against suicide at the national level. Multi-level analysis, taking into account both group-level and individual-level variables, would help clarify this relationship further and guide appropriate interventions at both the group and individual levels.


Suicide Social medicine Community networks Social capital 



The authors are grateful for the comments of the members of the Outcomes of Depression International Network (ODIN) on an earlier version of this paper. This paper uses data from the ESS, an academically driven social survey designed to chart and explain the interaction between Europe’s changing institutions and the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of its diverse populations. It is funded via the European Commission’s 5th and 6th Framework Programmes, the European Science Foundation and national funding bodies in each country. The project is directed by a central co-ordinating team led by Roger Jowell at the Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, City University, London (9).

Conflict of interest statement



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brendan D. Kelly
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mary Davoren
    • 1
  • Áine Ní Mhaoláin
    • 1
  • Eugene G. Breen
    • 1
  • Patricia Casey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Adult PsychiatryUniversity College Dublin, Mater Misericordiae University HospitalDublin 7Ireland

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