Introduction: The objective of the study was to investigate the relation of income inequality and indicators of social capital to self-inflicted injury mortality (suicide) and violence-related mortality, and to the share of total mortality that is due to these two causes of death in 35 developed countries.
Methods: We performed an ecological study including 30 European countries, including former communist countries, and 5 developed countries from other parts of the world. Countries were included if there was information available about mortality and income inequality, and if they were included in the European/World Values Surveys of 2000. Main outcome measures were self-inflicted injury and violence-related mortality and the percentage of total mortality that was due to these two causes of death.
Results: There were important variations between former communist Europe and other developed countries. In other developed countries income inequality was significantly, but negatively, correlated with self-inflicted deaths, but not with violence-related deaths. In former communist countries we found that income inequality was correlated with violence-related deaths, but not self-inflicted deaths. Only in former communist countries did adjusting for the level of preparedness to help others reduce the associations.
Conclusions: Our expectation that income inequality would have a relatively strong association with the two causes of death indicating mortality due to self-infliction and violence was only partly confirmed, i.e. only for former communist countries and only for violence-related mortality. Our expectation that adjusting indicators of social capital would lower associations was also only partly confirmed.