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© 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. All rights reserved. This chapter describes and examines empirical evidence concerning the relationship between suicidal behaviour and the labour market, based on a systematic and structured review of the literature from 1984 onwards. Three aspects of the labour market are distinguished: unemployment; female labour force participation (FLFP); and occupational (class) status and occupational risk. Within suicidal behaviour, completed suicide and deliberate self-harm (attempted suicide or parasuicide) are considered separately. Studies are assigned to one of four types of research design: individual cross-sectional, aggregate cross-sectional, individual longitudinal and aggregate longitudinal. Following a brief overview of the methodological limitations of these designs, we present the main findings in tabular form with a brief accompanying commentary. There is an increased risk of suicide and deliberate self-harm among the unemployed, which may be compatible with both causal and self-selection processes. The review does not find strong evidence to suggest that increased FLFP rates have led to increased suicide rates. On the other hand, data confirming a positive impact of FLFP are equivocal. The risks of suicide and deliberate self-harm are inversely related to social class (the lower the class, the higher the rate), while the occupational groups exhibiting the greatest proportional mortality ratios for suicide are found in classes I and II (e.g. those working in the medical and allied professions). The chapter concludes with a brief consideration of the implications for prevention.

Original publication





Book title

The International Handbook of Suicide and Attempted Suicide

Publication Date



309 - 384