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Income inequality, unemployment, and suicide: a panel data analysis of 15 European countries

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Most panel data studies have employed overall suicide rates (male and female) to identify the determinants of suicide. This research has also neglected the use of country specific linear time trends. Neglecting these factors may confound the empirical estimates of socio-economic variables due to the impact of unobserved country specific determinants of suicide that are time-varying. Empirical results from 15 European countries between 1970 and 1998 support this hypothesis. Specifically, economic growth, fertility rate, and alcohol consumption seem to have a significant impact on male and female suicide rates after the inclusion of country specific linear trends. Contrary to prior studies, suicide rates were not sensitive to income levels, female labour participation rates and unemployment. In addition, the effect of divorce rate is specific to gender. Finally, the results also illustrate the importance of employing age-specific suicide rates compared to what has been traditionally used, in trying to evaluate the factors responsible for suicide mortality. In particular, the impact of socio-economic factors is not equal across age groups, and policies aimed at the prevention of suicide should take this into account.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Economics University of Southern Denmark Campusvej 55 5230 Odense M Denmark, Email:

Publication date: 2005-03-01

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