Unemployment and suicide in Italy: evidence of a long-run association mitigated by public unemployment spending

  • Giorgio MatteiEmail author
  • Barbara Pistoresi
Original Paper


From the mid-1990s on, the suicide rate in Italy declined steadily, then apparently rose again after the onset of the Great Recession, along with a sharp increase in unemployment. The aim of this study is to test the association between the suicide rate and unemployment (i.e., the unemployment rate for males and females in the period 1977–2015, and the long-term unemployment rate in the period 1983–2012) in Italy, by means of cointegration techniques. The analysis was adjusted for public unemployment spending (referring to the period 1980–2012). The study identified a long-run relationship between the suicide rate and long-term unemployment. On the other hand, an association between suicide and unemployment rate emerged, though statistically weaker. A 1% increase in long-term unemployment increases the suicide rate by 0.83%, with a long-term effect lasting up to 18 years. Public unemployment spending (as percentage of the Italian gross domestic product) may mitigate this association: when its annual growth rate is higher than 0.18%, no impact of unemployment on suicide in detectable. A decrease in the suicide rate is expected for higher amounts of social spending, which may be able to compensate for the reduced level of social integration resulting from unemployment, helping the individual to continue to integrate into society. A corollary of this is that austerity in times of economic recession may exacerbate the impact of the economic downturn on mental health. However, a specific “flexicurity” system (intended as a combination of high employment protection, job satisfaction and labour-market policies) may have a positive impact on health.


Suicide mortality Cointegration analysis ECM Austerity measures Italy 

JEL Classification

C01 econometrics 6F economic impacts of globalization I1 health 



The authors wish to thank Prof. William J. Bromwich for the linguistic revision of the manuscript. The authors also thank Marcello D’Amato and Andrea Marchioni for their useful suggestions. Barbara Pistoresi gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by Fondo per le Agevolazioni alla Ricerca (FAR) 2017 provided by the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest in connection with this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical, Metabolic and Neural SciencesUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Economics and Marco Biagi FoundationUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Economics and ReCentUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly

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