Unemployment accounts for one in five suicides a year across the world, according to new research from the University of Zurich.

The academics investigated data from 63 countries between 2000 and 2011 in order to find out how many suicides are associated with unemployment.

The countries were divided into four regions: North and South America, Northern and Western Europe, southern and Eastern Europe, and Non-Americas and non-Europe.

"Despite country-specific particularities, we found a similarly strong association between unemployment and suicide rates in all four regions," said Dr Carlos Nordt, a research associate at the university.

He added: "Every year, around one in five suicides is associated with unemployment.

"After the crisis year in 2008, the number of suicides increased short-term by 5,000 cases."

Other studies had already estimated this figure. What was not known, however, was that around 46,000 suicides overall were associated with unemployment that year.

"Therefore, suicides associated with unemployment totalled a nine-fold higher number of deaths than excess suicides attributed to the most recent economic crisis," Nordt said.

The research, which has been published in the The Lancet Psychiatry, also revealed that the impact of a change in unemployment on suicide was stronger in countries with a lower rather than with a higher pre-crisis unemployment rate.

Therefore, according to the researchers, investments in programs that integrate people in the job market and promote a healthy work climate are also essential in countries with comparably lower unemployment rates.

The study also found that the rise in the suicide rate preceded the unemployment rate by around six months.

"The development on the job market was obviously anticipated and the uncertainty regarding the development of the economic situation already seems to have negative consequences," said Dr Wolfram Kawohl.