JOBLESS men are more likely to take their own lives during times of economic prosperity, an Australian study of unemployment and suicide shows.
Researchers believe the stigma of being out of work when the job market is buoyant increases the risk of developing mental health problems.
The 20-year study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that the longer men were unemployed the greater their risk of suicide.
The results have prompted calls for job seekers who have been out of work for more than a month to be offered counselling when accessing Centrelink services. Young men aged 25 to 34, and those aged 55 to 64 were at greatest risk, with those without work for more than four weeks being far more likely to commit suicide than those who had been jobless for less than a fortnight.
Allison Milner, who led the University of Melbourne study - which examined suicide and employment trends between 1985 and 2006 - said that while losing a job was a risk factor for women, it was significantly more so for men.
Dr Milner, a research fellow at the McCaughey Centre: VicHealth Centre for the Promotion of Mental Health & Community Wellbeing, said offering job-seekers support when welfare services were accessed could help save lives.
''If it's done in the context of, 'we're working together to try and find you a job, and oh, by the way here's some help with this', then the focus is not about their mental health but more about their job-seeking behaviours and how they can improve that, and at the same time reduce their stress so men might be more amenable to that than if they were talking to a doctor.''
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