Work is driving men to suicide say researchers


Employers need to improve men’s working conditions as part of the drive to stop male suicide in Australia, according to new research led by Deakin University.

The groundbreaking national study of 9,000 Australian workers (84% male/16% female) who died by suicide, found that job stress increases men risk of suicide by around a third. Job stress was assessed using two key criteria:

  • Job control, i.e. the extent to which employees can decide how to do their work
  • Job demands, i.e. the levels of workload and work pressure

For men, low job control increased the risk of suicide by 35% and high job demands increased their suicide risk by 36%. For women in the survey, neither low job control nor high job demands were associated with an increase in suicide risk.

Being in employment is generally thought to reduce men’s risk of suicide. According to the Queensland Suicide Register, for example, unemployed men are nearly 10 times more likely to suicide than men in work and more than 40 times more likely to take their own lives than women who have jobs.

However, men in work are still at least four-to-five  times more likely to kill themselves than women in work, and this new research highlights one factor appears to increase working men’s risk of suicide.

The study’s senior author, Professor Tony LaMontagne, head of the work, health and wellbeing unit at Deakin’s Centre for Population Health Research, said:

“We know that suicide is four times more likely to occur among men than it is among women, so the results of this study highlight new modifiable risk factors for male suicide,” he said.

“Our research suggests that prevention activities should target men and include attention to improving working conditions.

“This can be done through programs addressing suicide or mental health more broadly in the workplace setting, as well as at the policy level.

“Most importantly, these programs need to address working conditions as well as other important factors such as reducing stigma towards mental illness and how to seek help.”

The five year study was undertaken by researchers from Deakin University, the French National Health and Medical Research Institute and the University of Melbourne analysed the effect of job stress on the likelihood of ­suicide.

The new study used coronial reports to examine workers’ occupations, ages and their year of death, using data from the Australian National Coronial Information System and ­including cases of suicide from 2011 and 2012.


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