People in low socio-economic positions are over-represented in suicide statistics and are at heightened risk for non-fatal suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Few studies have tried to tease out the relationship between individual-level and area-level socio-economic position, however. We used data from Ten to Men
(the Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health) to investigate the relationship between individual-level and area-level socio-economic position and suicidal thinking in 12,090 men. We used a measure of unemployment/employment and occupational skill level as our individual-level indicator of socio-economic position. We used the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage (a composite multidimensional construct created by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that combines information from a range of area-level variables, including the prevalence of unemployment and employment in low skilled occupations) as our area-level indicator. We assessed suicidal thinking using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). We found that even after controlling for common predictors of suicidal thinking; low individual-level and area-level socio-economic position heightened risk. Individual-level socio-economic position appeared to exert the greater influence of the two; however. There is an onus on policy makers and planners from within and outside the mental health sector to take individual- and area-level socio-economic position into account when they are developing strategic initiatives.
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