STUDY OBJECTIVE--The aim was to investigate suicide and "undetermined" deaths by age, economic activity status, and social class in Great Britain among males of working age. DESIGN--The study was a cross sectional analysis of Registrar General's data for England and Wales around 1981, repeated for around 1971, and for Scotland around 1971 and 1981. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS--For England and Wales around 1971, suicide and undetermined death rates showed a progressive increase with age and a markedly higher rate in the lower social classes. A significant interaction effect was identified in the central age groups of the lower occupational categories. This interaction was confirmed in the remaining three data sets, notwithstanding some differences in the profile of age specific mortality. Other findings included a higher standardised mortality ratio for the economically inactive, who also showed an earlier peak in age specific mortality, and a relative concentration of undetermined as compared to suicide deaths in the lower social classes, but not all these further results were fully replicated. CONCLUSIONS--There is a concentration of suicide and undetermined deaths in the middle age groups of the lower social classes. Plausible explanations include both the social drift and the social genesis hypotheses, the latter including the effects of long term unemployment.
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