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Objectives

To examine employment status among adults bereaved by parental suicide at the time of bereavement and 2 and 5 years after the loss and to explore the importance of the gender of the adult child and the deceased parent.

Design

Population-based register study.

Setting

Norwegian population-based registries linked using unique personal identifiers.

Participants

Norwegian residents aged 25–49 years in the period 2000–2014. Participants were divided into three groups: bereaved by parental suicide, bereaved by parental death of other causes and non-bereaved population controls.

Main outcome measures

ORs for the risk of non-employment at the time of bereavement and 2 and 5 years after the loss.

Results

Those bereaved by parental suicide had a higher risk of non-employment already at the time of bereavement (OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.23). Stratified analyses showed that women accounted for this difference (OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.33), while no difference was found for men (OR 1.00, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.13). Looking at the gender of the parent, there was only a significant association of non-employment when losing a mother (OR 1.24, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.42), while not for losing a father (OR 1.09, 95% CI 0.99 to 1.20). Among those working at the time of bereavement, offspring bereaved by suicide were more likely to be non-employed at both 2 (OR 1.13, 95% CI 0.99 to 1.30) and 5 (OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.40) years after the loss compared with the general population.

Conclusions

Women bereaved by parental suicide and those losing a mother to suicide were found to have a weaker attachment to the labour market already before losing their parent. Those who were employed when bereaved by suicide were somewhat more likely to be non-employed 5 years after the event.

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