A new study found that unemployment is one of the main causes for suicide across the world – between 2001 and 2011, unemployment caused approximately 450,000 cases of suicide.

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Are we living in a dystopian world? Previous estimates found that 1 million people worldwide take their lives by suicide every year, and now, a new study found that at least 45,000 of those are caused by unemployment. Is not having a job so bad that you want to end your life? Apparently, in many cases, it is. Lead author Dr. Carlos Nordt, of the University of Zurich Psychiatric Hospital in Switzerland and his colleagues urge governments to increase focus on reducing unemployment in order to lower its impact on suicide.

The team analyzed data on 63 countries over a period of 10 years, from 2001 to 2011 – they chose this period because they wanted to see if there are differences in periods of economic stability (before the crisis) and economic crisis. They estimate that in those countries there were 233,000 suicides each year, and 45,000 of those were caused by unemployment; in other words, 1 in 5 people who commit suicide do so because they don’t have a job.

What’s even more disturbing is that the number of suicide cases (both in total, and caused by unemployment) is rising.

“What is more,” the team adds, “our data suggest that not all job losses necessarily have an equal impact, as the effect on suicide risk appears to be stronger in countries where being out of work is uncommon. It is possible that an unexpected increase in the unemployment rate may trigger greater fears and insecurity than in countries with higher pre-crisis unemployment levels.”

According to researchers, governments have to take measures to prevent unemployment not only for economic and social security – but also to save lives.

“Besides specific therapeutic interventions, sufficient investment by governments in active labour market policies that enhance the efficiency of labour markets could help generate additional jobs and reduce the unemployment rate, helping to offset the impact on suicide.”

It should also be considered that suicides are just the extreme cases – the tip of the iceberg, the team puts it. Roger Webb and Navneet Kapur, both of the University of Manchester note that while their study only focused on suicide cases, unemployment is also extremely likely to have caused other issues.

“Many affected individuals who remain in work during these hard times encounter serious psychological stressors due to pernicious economic strains other than un­employment, including falling income, ‘zero­-hour’ contracting, job insecurity, bankruptcy, debt and home repossession,” they explain.

For future studies, they recommends focus on on “psychosocial manifestations of economic adversity,” such as non-fatal self-harm, stress and anxiety, depression, hopelessness, alcohol abuse, familial conflict and relationship breakdown. We know that, especially in some countries, unemployment can be a stigma and can cause massive psychological issues (aside to the financial ones), but we don’t know exactly how those problems manifest.

“We also need to know how and why highly resilient individuals who experience the greatest levels of economic adversity manage to sustain favorable mental health and well-being,” they add.

Journal Reference: Modelling suicide and unemployment: a longitudinal analysis covering 63 countries, 2000-11, Carlos Nordt, et al., The Lancet Psychiatry, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S2215-0366(14)00118-7, published online 11 February 2015, abstract.

The Lancet news release, accessed 10 February 2015 via AlphaGalileo.

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