PhD Scholarship - the role of job stress in suicide

School of Health & Social Development, Population Health Strategic Research Centre

The overall aim of the proposed PhD is to study the relationship between work related exposure to job stress and suicide. Over 2,000 deaths in Australia are due to suicide each year. More deaths are due to suicide than are due to transport accidents. These figures do not take the suffering due to nonfatal suicidal behaviours into account, or the flow-on impact of suicide on friends and family. Evidence from a small number of empirical studies support the premise that psychosocial job stressors - such as low job control, and high psychological demands – are related to increased risk of suicide. These studies have been primarily quantitative, and there has been little qualitative exploration in the area.

The proposed PhD will develop and use a "Life-Chart" approach to identify the temporal pathways through which adverse work environments may contribute to suicide. This recognises that for some cases, mental health issues and suicide are ongoing issues with long-term implications on functioning at work. For others working at the time of death, there may be less evidence of traditional risk factors such as a diagnosed mental disorder. Using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, life-charts (ascertained through detailed coronial briefs) will be used to examine the possible factors that precede suicide deaths. This can provide information on the critical time-points at which persons may be at acute risk of suicide. Never before have life-charts been used to understand the intersection between adverse working environments and suicide.

This is a unique opportunity for someone with interests in the primary prevention of suicide, as well as the use of coronial data for research purposes. The PhD scholarship is funded through the Population Health SRC at Deakin University. Support will be available for the PhD candidate to attend national and international conferences to present their study findings.

Application period/Closing date

Applications close 31 August 2014

Value and benefits

  • A stipend of $25,392 per annum tax exempt (2014 rate)

Eligibility criteria

  • Applicants must meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements, be enrolling full-time and must hold an Honours degree (First Class) or a Master's degree in a related field with a substantial research component (or equivalent). Please refer to the entry pathways to higher degrees by research for further information.
  • Applicants must be Australian or New Zealand citizens or Australian permanent residents. 
  • A background in criminology, sociology, psychology, occupational health, public health, epidemiology, medical or health science is desirable.

Terms and conditions

Please refer to the terms and conditions (PDF, 134.0 KB) of award.

How to apply

Applicants should submit the following documents to

  • A 1‐2 page summary of their previous relevant experience or background, and a description of the area of primary prevention that is of particular interest to them;
  • CV; and
  • Academic transcripts.

Further information

Please contact Julia Malone at for further information.

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