Background and objective: While risk factors for suicide have been established, the impact of social context in moderating the impact of these factors is poorly understood.
Methods: Data from case-control studies published between 1950 and 2006 that examined socio-demographic risk factors for suicide in clinical, occupational and general populations were extracted. Odds ratios for risk factors for suicide (employment, ethnicity, living circumstances and marital status) were correlated with the prevalence of these risk factors among controls.
Results: Data were extracted from 54 studies. Negative correlations were demonstrated for the odds ratio and prevalence of unemployment (ρ = -0.73), living alone (ρ = -0.46), and being from an ethnic minority community (ρ = -0.68).
Conclusion: The impact of some socio-demographic risk factors for suicide appears to be accentuated when they are less prevalent in the population from which cases are derived. When assessing an individual’s risk of suicide, consideration should be given to the prevalence of risk factors in the area where the individual lives.
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