Background: Social factors have been shown to be predictors of suicide. It is not known whether these factors vary between countries. Aims: To present a first European overview of socio-economic inequalities in suicide mortality among men and women. Method: We used a prospective follow-up of censuses matched with vital statistics in ten European populations. Directly standardised rates of suicide were computed for each country. Results: In men, a low level of educational attainment was a risk factor for suicide in eight out of ten countries. Suicide inequalities were smaller and less consistent in women. In most countries, the greater the socio-economic disadvantage, the higher is the risk of suicide. The population of Turin evidenced no socio-economic inequalities. Conclusions: Socio-economic inequalities in suicide are a generalised phenomenon in western Europe, but the pattern and magnitude of these inequalities vary between countries. These inequalities call for improved access to psychiatric care for lower socio-economic groups.