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Is there a causal association between suicide rates and the political leanings of government?
  1. T Blakely,
  2. S Collings
  1. Department of Public Health, Wellington School of Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 7343, Wellington, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr T Blakely;

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The study of ecological influences on suicide, over and above individual level risk factors, is the example par excellence of the social epidemiological approach.1 In this issue of the journal, Page et al present a fascinating ecological study of the association between suicide rates in New South Wales during the 20th century and various ecological variables, including whether the governing political party was conservative or social democratic.2 Consistent with the political disposition of public health researchers (our unstated “observer bias”), suicide rates were indeed higher during periods of conservative government. Apart from confirming our ideological prejudice, such a finding has support from a theoretical perspective. It is not too long a bow to draw to make the connection of conservative government with a greater degree of individualism and retrenchment of the state …

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