Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

The impact of fathers' physical and psychosocial work conditions on attempted and completed suicide among their children

Ostry Aleck1*, Maggi Stefania2, Tansey James3, Dunn James4, Hershler Ruth1, Chen Lisa1, Louie Amber1 and Hertzman Clyde1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

2 University College of the Cariboo-Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, Canada

3 Oxford University, Oxford, UK

4 University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2006, 6:77  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-77

Published: 27 March 2006



Adverse employment experiences, particularly exposure to unemployment and the threat of unemployment, have been strongly associated with several adverse mental and physical health outcomes including suicide. However, virtually no research has been conducted on the trans-generational impact of parental working conditions on attempted or completed suicide among their children.


We conducted a nested case control study based on a cohort, gathered in the western Canadian province of British Columbia, of male sawmill workers and a second cohort of their children. Physical and psychosocial work conditions to which fathers were exposed during the first 16 years of their children's lives, measured using the demand/control model, were linked to hospital suicide records (attempted and completed) among their children.


Two hundred and fifty children in the cohort attempted or committed suicide between 1985 and 2001. Multivariate models, with partial control for father's mental health outcomes prior to their child's suicide demonstrate, 1) a strong association between low duration of father's employment at a study sawmill and attempted suicide for their male children, 2) elevated odds for attempted suicide among female children of fathers' employed in a sawmill job with low control and, 3) a strong association between fathers in jobs with low psychological demand and completed suicides among male children.


Exposure of fathers to adverse psychosocial work conditions during the first 16 years of their children's life was associated with greater odds for attempted and completed suicide among their children.