Suicide - Professions
11 Professions with Highest Suicide
Top 11 Professions
with Highest Suicide Rates
Yet year after year, both dentist and doctor remain among the occupations with the highest suicide rates. It seems as though in the United States, jobs requiring significant levels of aptitude, sacrifice, and education seem to be those with above-average risk of suicide. Oddly enough, contrasting evidence has emerged in countries like Britain that indicates the opposite trend to be true: occupations requiring lower skill tend to carry increased rates of suicide.
Unfortunately, specific data of suicide rates by profession is generally imperfect. It is impossible to get an accurate comparison of all careers in regards to suicide rate. Therefore, researchers have taken the time to analyze some of the more common occupations and have come up with a list of professions that are thought to have the highest suicide rates.
Top 11 Professions with Highest Suicide Rates
Below is a list of the professions that are believed to have the highest suicide rates. Much of this data has been compiled based on information released from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). The data collected from the NIOSH is generally outdated by a couple of years and will be subject to change based on futuristic modifications to the landscape of the market. Keep in mind, that the data is subject to slight error and annual adjustments.
The Odds listed below include a number indicating the rates of suicide compared to those in the general population. For example, if 1.5 is listed, it would mean that those in the mentioned profession die from suicide as a cause of death at a rate that is 1.5 times the norm. Since not all rates were able to be specifically determined.
1. Medical Doctors
Evidence suggests that doctors are approximately 1.87 times as likely to commit suicide than those working other occupations. Examining all causes of death as a doctor, nearly 4% of all doctor deaths result from suicide. There are many factors that are believed to make doctors more likely to resort to suicide than average, including: long hours, demanding patients, malpractice lawsuits, continued education, medical school expenses, and ease of access to medications.
If a doctor becomes stressed and/or deeply depressed, the fact that they can easily obtain medication is a contributing factor to the increase in suicides among this profession. A doctor is also extremely knowledgeable regarding doses of medications and combinations that would prove to be fatal. Evidence suggests that doctors are nearly 4X as likely to use drugs as a suicide method in attempt to overdose.
Additionally, doctors that do suffer from a mental illness often wont seek treatment for an array of reasons. They may not want word to spread that they have a particular psychiatric condition, they may feel as if the medications will affect their performance, and they may not be able to admit that they actually need medical help. Certainly each doctor is different, and the majority of doctors actually have a below-average likelihood of committing suicide due to the fact that they take optimal care of their mental and physical health.
Note: Male and female physicians are equally as likely to commit suicide. In comparison to standard female occupations, female doctors are 2.78 times as likely to commit suicide.
Most people dont particularly enjoy going to the dentist, but most can tough it out in order to get clean teeth. The dental field is considered extremely competitive and requires significant technical skill to deliver optimal oral care. Like doctors, dentists work in a field that is rife with stress from working long hours and complaints from patients.
Researchers suggest that dentists are nearly 1.67 times as likely to commit suicide compared to an average job. There are many factors that likely contribute to this increased risk of suicide including: stress, demanding nature of the job, patient complaints, perfectionism, and even loans to pay off from dental school. Many new dentists enter the field with significant debt and overwork themselves in attempt to pay it off not realizing that they are sacrificing their personal health.
Sure being a dentist can result in a significant income, but not many people realize the degree of stress that most dentists experience. Couple these factors with ease of access to various drugs and a well rounded pharmacological knowledge, and committing suicide becomes an easy prospect. Additionally, dentists are believed to suffer from higher rates of mental illness due to stress, but are less likely than average to seek out help for their condition.
3. Police Officers
When most people think of police officers, they think of upstanding citizens that are in great mental and physical health. However, many people dont realize that enforcing the law is often very stressful and requires a significant amount of work. Many police officers work overtime and depending on their assigned duties, they may become more stressed than average.
Some have suggested that police officers are much more likely to become depressed than people working other occupations; estimates suggest the likelihood is nearly two-fold. Due to the stressful nature of their job, they are less likely to get adequate sleep with most police officers routinely getting under six hours. Despite the stress associated with this job and preliminary reports that police officers have high suicide rates, the rates are often fabricated with too high of numbers simply to generate media hype.
Looking more specifically, it appears as though Caucasian men tend to have lower suicide rates as police officers compared to women and African-American men. Suicide rates for women that become police officers tend to be approximately 2.03 times that of the average population, while African-American male police officers tend to engage in approximately 2.55 times your average worker. However, in general, your active duty police officer engages in suicide as a cause of death at a rate that is still less than doctors and dentists. More police get killed from felons than those who die of suicide.
Those involved in the field of animal care as veterinarians seem to have above average suicide rates when compared to the general population. Since many vets have easy access to various pharmaceutical medications and a knowledge of the pharmacology, using them for the purposes of suicide isnt a far-fetched idea especially when a veterinarian becomes depressed. This is another job that requires technical skill, proper diagnoses, and little room for mistakes.
Many vets work long hours and constantly see animals get put to sleep, which may detrimentally affect their emotional wellbeing. For some veterinarians, the combination of working with sick, suffering animals may lead to feelings of depression and emotional stress. Like medical doctors, many veterinarians may also believe that they take optimal care of themselves and dont need to seek treatment should they suffer from a mental illness. On average though, suicide rates for veterinarians have historically been considered a profession with higher than average suicide rates.
5. Financial Services
The finance industry is full of people making a lot of money, yet consistently has above average suicide rates. It is thought that among those who work in the financial industry, the suicide rate is approximately 1.51 times that of an average worker. Due to the recession that hit the United States and ensuing economic changes, those who work in the financial industry may not feel as secure as they had in the past.
Some evidence has demonstrated a clear correlation between suicide in the financial industry and the state of the economy. In a booming economy, the suicide rates plummet due to the fact that the financial workers are likely also raking in more money with less to worry about. In a bust economy, financial advisors are often losing significant amounts of money and have trouble generating business.
The fact that the financial market has been subject to instability in recent years, many in the financial industry become stressed and/or depressed. Although these individuals may not have ease of access to pharmaceuticals like doctors and dentists, the pressure to swim-or-sink in a poor economy often leads some financial experts to inevitably sink and they resort so suicide.
Think about it, if your job was at the mercy of a poor economy, you may become stressed. Also, if you are helping others invest and they end up losing money or not meeting projected quotas, it is easy to carry significant guilt. These are all hypothesized reasons that may contribute to elevated suicide rates among those working in the finance industry.
6. Real Estate Agents
Working in the real estate industry has significant earning potential, but often carries equally as much risk. While becoming a real estate agent may not take as much of a financial toll on a person, establishing themselves in the industry is often highly stressful. Even after a person gets established as a real estate agent, they are responsible for closing deals, negotiating, and if they need to sell a valuable property in a specific amount of time, they may become stressed.
When properties become devalued in the housing market, it makes selling pretty tough. Someone who needs to make a specific amount of money may not understand that when property values plummet, real estate earning potential often does as well. While there are always some sharks in the real estate industry that earn significant money regardless of the housing market, there are also individuals that end up becoming broke.
Some real estate agents have a really tough time finding work in a bust economy. This leads to less sales and less money to provide for themselves and/or a family. The suicide rate among real estate agents in estimated as being 1.38 times the average worker. Obviously the risk is subject to fluctuation based on the current state of property values and the housing market.
Becoming an electrician often carries a high earning potential. Additionally, electricians are always in demand due to the fact that most people dont want to work around high voltage electricity on a daily basis. Most qualified electricians have no problem finding a job or earning a salary capable of supporting themselves.
However, electricians tend to commit suicide at approximately 1.36 times the rate of your average worker. Some have theorized that the continuous daily electromagnetic radiation may alter brain chemistry and functioning of the nervous system. This alteration may make electricians more prone to major depression and ultimately suicide. This particular theory warrants further scientific investigation.
Perhaps the fact that most electricians are often dealing with potentially life-threatening currents and are often need to fix electrical mishaps quickly leads to above-average stress. Obviously some electricians may be happier than others and less prone to suicidal ideation, but overall the suicide rate is considered above-average.
Becoming a lawyer requires significant education and educational expenses. Additionally, once an individual completes the necessary education to become a lawyer, they often have accumulated debt from student loans. Simultaneously, they often have difficulties finding a good job that meets their expected income level. It should also be mentioned that law students tend to become depressed before they establish themselves as lawyers. Some reports suggest that nearly 40% of law students deal with depression.
Working lawyers are thought to have higher rates of depression than the average U.S. citizen. some research indicates their rates are approximately 3.6 times that of average occupations. The fact that lawyers are more prone to depression and often have to work long, stressful hours to establish themselves, their mental health can suffer. This can spiral into thoughts of suicide, and if a lawyer feels as if theres no escape from their stressful career, they may act on those thoughts.
Obviously not all lawyers suffer from depression and suicidal ideation, it just happens to be more common in this particular occupation. Statistics indicate that lawyers are 1.33 times more likely to off themselves as an average citizen. The skyrocketing rates of depression and suicide in recent years have lead to the implementation of mandatory psychological evaluations for lawyers in certain states.
Farmers are responsible for growing crops to provide food for the rest of the country. However, for most farmers, growing crops isnt necessarily a lucrative business. Many famers deal with inclement weather that detrimentally affects crop production. If crop production is low, the farmer is unable to make enough sales to adequately provide for himself and his family.
This increases overall financial stress, which leaves the farmer with less money to reinvest in the farming business. With less money to reinvest, the potential crop for the following year remains lower than average. Not only is being a famer considered to be among the lowest paying jobs in the United States, but it requires long hours and significant hard work.
Farmers constantly need to buy machinery, replace parts, and are often considered to be isolated from society. Outside of other family members, being a farmer results in minimal social interaction, which may contribute to increased depression. Perhaps most notably, farmers are often exposed to pesticides, which have been linked to suicide. For these reasons, suicide rates among farmers are approximately 1.32 times that of your average occupation.
Being a pharmacist often results in working long hours, getting inadequate sleep, and high levels of stress. Pharmacists need to be highly alert because they are responsible for dispensing pharmaceutical prescriptions on a daily basis. All it takes is one major error in the dosing of the medication that they provide for them to lose their job. They need to make sure that they follow proper protocol and are essentially perfect in the dispensing of medications.
The perfectionist nature of this job results in further stress upon the pharmacist. Additionally, some pharmacists are required to work shift-work at 24 hour pharmacies, which is well-established to be detrimental to a persons mental health. The suicide rate among pharmacists is approximately 1.29 times that of the average occupation. While most licensed pharmacists earn a good salary, they carry a significant amount of responsibility.
They are responsible for informing patients of medication side effects and dealing with collecting payments for certain medications. Often times a patient who cannot afford a particular medication or is confused will unleash their misguided anger upon a pharmacist. Also considering the fact that a pharmacist has easy access to drugs and a general knowledge of dosing and pharmacology, it makes suicide via overdose a more common option.
Working as a chemist or scientist is found to have a suicide rate that is approximately 1.28 times that of other occupations. Individuals involved in science fields, particularly chemists are able to easily obtain deadly chemicals and concoct formulas that are likely to be lethal. Chemists have an astute knowledge of what they could mix together and theoretically could create a strong batch of drugs as a means to overdose.
Those working as chemists and scientists are often under significant pressure to perform on the job. Not only do they need to be perfectionists, they are often scrutinized if they fail to come up with a new breakthrough in their field. A scientists or chemist could end up wasting a significant amount of money on a study if nothing significant is found. This job can be high stress, especially since they may be conducting studies that are backed by millions of dollars.
Scientists typically work long hours and carry out highly technical research. Although many scientists and chemists would never take there lives, it would appear that people working these particular occupations die by suicide more frequently than most others.
Military Personnel & Veterans
What about those working in the United States military? Doesnt the stress accumulated on the job often lead to suicide? According to 2013 research in the Journal of the American Medical Association, various factors such as long deployments, multiple deployments, and experience in combat didnt tend to increase suicide rates. This research demonstrated that approximately half of all troops that engaged in suicide had never actually been deployed.
Despite the fact that suicide rates among troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan had drastically increased (by double) until 2009, the rates among those who were never deployed actually tripled. Suicide among those in the military tends to fluctuate based on whether our country is currently at war. The potential risk of being deployed into combat is often what leads many people to take their own life.
Suicide rates for military personnel have dropped since 2009. The rate among active-duty personnel is suggested to be roughly 18 suicides per 100,000 troops. This number was higher pre-2009 when troops were constantly being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. It is difficult to compare military personnel to other careers simply due to the fact that most people serve a brief stint in the military, whereas other careers tend to be lifelong.
Many people have suggested that
military suicides are common, but not necessarily among
active-duty members. They are more likely to occur among
veterans who have served and had to deal with PTSD. If we
are considering veterans, who take their lives at nearly
double the rate of the average population, they would likely
be at the top of the list.
Occupational Mortality Surveillance
When attempting to determine exact fields with the highest suicide rates, it is difficult to determine the accuracy of the collected data. Therefore, the information cannot necessarily be taken with 100% confidence. The above list is just to give you a general idea of what professions likely carry greater suicide rates than others.
Back in 2011, writers for the publication Business Insider collected data from the NIOSH that examined suicide rates by occupation. They took a look at causes of death from 1984 to 1998 and they used white males with occupations that had over 1,000 deaths. So all occupations and other races were ruled out in their data extraction process. The reason they had to use white males is due to the fact that there is a greater demographical representation of them.
Suicide by Occupation (Business Insider)
Below is a list that was developed in 2011 by Business Insider based off of information that they collected. Marine engineers seems to carry slightly greater risk of suicide compared to doctors and dentists. Their list consists of 19 occupations with the highest rates of suicide and includes some unexpected professions like hand molders and lathe operators.
Marine engineers (1.89X)
Medical Doctors (1.87X)
Financial services (1.51X)
Construction / equipment supervisors (1.46X)
Urban planners / social scientists (1.43X)
Hand molders (1.39X)
Real estate sales (1.38X)
Electrical equipment assemblers (1.36X)
Lawyers / Judges (1.33X)
Lathe / turning machine operators (1.33X)
Farm managers (1.32)
Heat training equipment operators (1.32)
Precision woodworkers (1.3X)
Natural Scientists (1.28X)
suicide rates for white women, black men, black women
White females: Further examination of data revealed that white women as physicians were significantly more likely to commit suicide than average. Their rate is approximately 2.78 times that of a woman working a general occupation. The second most problematic field for women was typically sales with a 2.43 greater suicide rate than other occupations. Finally, working as a police officer was the third most likely culprit for suicide among women with a rate 2.03 times greater than other fields.
Black males: Most evidence suggests that black males working as police officers (and/or detectives) are nearly 2.55 times as likely to commit suicide as other fields. The second highest suicide rates among black males are found in the occupation of furnace operators at approximately 2.55 times the average rate. Thirdly, a black male working as an electrician seemed to carry the next highest suicide rate at approximately 1.78 times the average.
Black females: The greatest suicide rates are typically found in protective service careers among black females at a rate of 2.78 times the average. Next greatest rate was sales careers just like those of white females which lead to double the risk of suicide compared to average. Finally the third highest occupation in terms of suicide rates among black females was packaging service operations with a rate of 1.96 times the average.
What causes suicide in these professions?
It should be noted that in each specific career, the exact causal factors may differ. (Read: Common Causes of Suicide). For example, those working as doctors may deal with high stress and have easy access to potent drugs making overdose easier than average. Other careers such as those working in the financial industry may lose a significant amount of business due to a bust economy, contributing to significant depression. In other cases such as that of a farmer, working in total isolation may contribute to depression and a suicidal ideation.
Regardless of the specific factors for each field, it is important to also remember that each individual case is different. Two doctors may commit suicide for completely different reasons one may have been battling a mental illness, and another may have simply cracked as a result of high stress and long-hours. Therefore we cannot always generalize potential causal factors based on occupation individual factors often play a major role.
Also recognize that plenty of individuals who work in the aforementioned jobs with the highest suicide rates are actually less likely than average to die via suicide. For example, it is estimated that over 95% of medical doctors have a higher quality of life and greater individual mental and physical health than average. So just because suicide rates for this occupation are high, the majority of professionals in this field are actually at less of a risk than the average population.
British Suicide Rates by Occupation (1980s to 2000s)
A 2013 study published in the BMJ collected mortality statistics, census-based information, and death files for the years 1979-1980, 1982-1983, and 2001-2005. They measured suicide rates based on how frequently it occurred based on every 100,000 individuals in the population.
This study was not based in the United States, rather it attempted to compare suicide rates for all possible occupations in Britain. Additionally, they wanted to determine how suicide rates across various occupations have changed over the past 30 years and some factors that may make certain people more prone to suicide.
1979-1980 / 1982-1983
In the early 1980s there were professions with high suicide rates that appeared to plummet by the 2000s. Occupations with increases in suicide rates over time were all considered manual occupations. Comparatively, occupations with suicide rates that decreased over time were generally professional and/or non-manual.
Researchers concluded that
socioeconomic factors play a significant role in the
influence of suicide rates throughout Britain. Oddly enough,
the increase in suicide rates among those working manual
labor jobs often occurred during a time of economic
prosperity. Most people assume that during tough
economic times, suicide rates would rise for these jobs, but
authors found the opposite to be true.
High Skill vs. Low Skill Jobs
They included 34 studies in their meta-analysis. Results demonstrated that Elementary jobs (e.g. cleaners, laborers, etc.) were at greater risk of suicide compared to the working-age population. Machine operators, deck crew members, and agricultural workers were also found to have elevated risk of suicide based on results from the meta-analysis. Their findings suggest that lower skilled occupations may carry greater risk of suicide compared to the highest-skill occupations.
Due to the fact that this research is
limited to Britain, we cannot speculate that their findings
are also true in the United States. It would be interesting
to conduct an international comparison across established
first-world countries to determine which occupations
consistently carry greater suicide rates than others. Since
this meta-analysis was the first of its kind to be
conducted, follow up research is certainly warranted
especially to determine why lower-skilled jobs had greater
rates of suicide.
by Occupation (2010)
Suicide attempts were greater in women (6.6%) compared to men (3.1%), but men had greater rates of mortality. In regards to occupation, individuals at the greatest risk for suicide were:
These individuals had the greatest
number of suicide attempts and a significant degree of
fatalities. Executives, on the other hand, had the least
suicide attempts and fatalities. Farmers didnt appear
to have any more suicide attempts than average, but had the
highest rate of mortality if suicide was attempted. For
women specifically, working in the agricultural
industry or with equipment goods had
greater risk of mortality from suicide.
may increase suicide rates in occupational settings
Accessibility to suicide methods: Many of the jobs listed above have easy access to a particular suicide method. For example, police officers have access to an array of firearms, which are often used for suicide. Doctors and dentists have easy access to pharmaceutical drugs that could be used for overdose.
Competition: In various occupations, competition is fierce, which drives down earning potential and makes it tougher to establish yourself. Examples of careers with fierce competition include financial advising, real estate, farming, and lawyers.
Health risks: Many careers contain significant health risks. A farmer may often apply pesticide to their crops, and actually become poisoned over time. An electrician may accumulate a significant amount of electrical radiation, which may detrimentally affect their health.
nstability: Any job that is at the mercy of external factors such as the weather, housing market, etc. is often unstable. When a farmer loses his entire annual crop as a result of a drought, or a real estate agent cant find work due to a poor economy, they may become depressed and suicidal due to lack of control over their situation.
Overworking: Individuals in some of these professions often get caught up in overworking and/or working long-hours. This leads to increased stress and the person feeling as if they are enslaved to their particular job with no escape.
Perfectionism: Occupations such as doctors, lawyers, and dentists require perfectionism to deliver optimal care to their clients. All it takes is one slip up and a malpractice lawsuit could be filed against them. In the case of a lawyer, one slip up means losing a big case. A mistake for an electrician working with high voltage power could be fatal.
Shift work: Some jobs require a person to work shift work which interferes with a persons sleep cycle and takes a toll on mental health. For example, a physician working the night-shift of an emergency room may become more depressed than average.
Social isolation: Certain jobs require working long hours, isolated from social interaction. An example would be the farmer that spends all day working by himself, maybe occasionally interacting with helping farmhands.
Stress: Perhaps the most obvious factor in all the professions is that they are considered high-stress. Not many professions are considered stress-free but many of the occupations listed above have greater than average stress rates.
What to do if your profession is making you suicidal?
If you or someone you know is suicidal, the best thing you can do is to seek immediate medical attention and reach out for help. You may want to read the article I Want to Die / Kill Myself for ideas of what you can do to cope with feeling suicidal. If your particular occupation is making you depressed and youve become suicidal as a result, you may need to take a step back, and honestly re-evaluate your priorities.
Many people get so caught up in work that they forget that their own mental health and performance is more important than a career. For this reason, its often common to see people experience burn out or a nervous breakdown from a job, and then switch careers to one that is more suitable to their personality and ability to cope with stress. If you work with someone that you believe may be suicidal, be sure to understand potential suicide warning signs and suicide risk factors.
Realize that suicidal ideation is
typically a result of a complex system rather than just a
persons occupation. While certain occupations tend to
statistically reveal higher suicide rates, there are often
many other, more obvious factors such as mental illness,
physical illness, or a traumatic experiences that are the
bigger contributing factors. Feel free to share your
thoughts and comments below regarding occupations and
Suicide Rates by Industry and
Occupation National Violent Death Reporting System,
32 States, 2016 - 1/24//20
What is already known about this topic?
Suicide among the U.S. working-age population (ages 1664 years) is increasing; in 2017, nearly 38,000 persons died by suicide.
What is added by this report?
National Violent Death Reporting System data from 32 states were used to calculate suicide rates for major industry and occupational groups and detailed occupational groups. Five industry groups and six major occupational groups had higher suicide rates than did the overall study population. Suicide rates for detailed occupational groups provide insight into subcategories within major groups.
What are the implications for public health practice?
Opportunities exist for targeted and broadscale prevention. CDCs Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices provides strategies to prevent suicide and can serve as a resource for communities and employers.
In 2017, nearly 38,000 persons of working age (1664 years) in the United States died by suicide, which represents a 40% rate increase (12.9 per 100,000 population in 2000 to 18.0 in 2017) in less than 2 decades.* To inform suicide prevention, CDC analyzed suicide data by industry and occupation among working-age decedents presumed to be employed at the time of death from the 32 states participating in the 2016 National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS).,§ Compared with rates in the total study population, suicide rates were significantly higher in five major industry groups: 1) Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction (males); 2) Construction (males); 3) Other Services (e.g., automotive repair) (males); 4) Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting (males); and 5) Transportation and Warehousing (males and females). Rates were also significantly higher in six major occupational groups: 1) Construction and Extraction (males and females); 2) Installation, Maintenance, and Repair (males); 3) Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (males); 4) Transportation and Material Moving (males and females); 5) Protective Service (females); and 6) Healthcare Support (females). Rates for detailed occupational groups (e.g., Electricians or Carpenters within the Construction and Extraction major group) are presented and provide insight into the differences in suicide rates within major occupational groups. CDCs Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices (1) contains strategies to prevent suicide and is a resource for communities, including workplace settings.
NVDRS combines data on violent deaths, including suicide, from death certificates, coroner/medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports. Industry and occupation coding experts used CDCs National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Industry and Occupation Computerized Coding System (NIOCCS 3.0)¶ to assign 2010 U.S. Census civilian industry and occupation codes for 20,975 suicide decedents aged 1664 years from the 32 states participating in the 2016 NVDRS, using decedents usual industry and occupation as reported on death certificates. Industry (the business activity of a persons employer or, if self-employed, their own business) and occupation (a persons job or the type of work they do) are distinct ways to categorize employment (2).
Suicide rates were analyzed for industry and occupational groups by sex. Population counts by occupation for rate denominators were states civilian, noninstitutionalized current job population counts (for persons aged 1664 years) from the 2016 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample.** Replicate weight standard errors for those counts were used to calculate 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for suicide rates (3). Rates were calculated by U.S. Census code for major industry groups, major occupational groups, and detailed occupational groups with =20 decedents; detailed occupational groups are typically more homogenous in terms of employee income, work environment, and peer group. Rates were not calculated for detailed industry groups because many decedents industry was classifiable only by major group. The following decedents were excluded from rate calculations: military workers (327); unpaid workers (2,863); those whose other NVDRS data sources (e.g., law enforcement reports) indicated no employment at time of death (i.e., unemployed, disabled, incarcerated, homemaker, or student) (4) (1,783); and those not residing in the analysis states (223). A total of 15,779 decedents, including 12,505 (79%) males and 3,274 (21%) females, were included in the analysis. The analysis was conducted using Stata (version 15, StataCorp) and SAS (version 9.4, SAS Institute) statistical software.
Industry and occupational groups with suicide rates significantly (a = 0.05) higher than the study population (i.e., all industries or occupations: 27.4 males [95% CI = 26.927.9] and 7.7 females [95% CI = 7.58.0] per 100,000 population) were identified when the groups 95% CI exceeded the study population rate point estimate. Treating the population rate as a constant is reasonable when variance is small and is required for one-sample inference that recognizes the nonindependence of individual industry and occupation groups relative to the study population.
The five major industry groups with suicide rates higher than the study population by sex included 1) Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction (males: 54.2 per 100,000 civilian noninstitutionalized working population, 95% CI = 44.064.3); 2) Construction (males: 45.3, 95% CI = 43.447.2); 3) Other Services (e.g., automotive repair; males: 39.1, 95% CI = 36.142.0); 4) Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting (males: 36.1, 95% CI = 31.740.5); and 5) Transportation and Warehousing (males: 29.8, 95% CI = 27.831.9; females: 10.1, 95% CI = 7.912.8) (Table 1) (Supplementary Table 1, https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/84274). The six major occupational groups with higher rates included 1) Construction and Extraction (males: 49.4, 95% CI = 47.251.6; females: 25.5, 95% CI = 15.739.4); 2) Installation, Maintenance, and Repair (males: 36.9, 95% CI = 34.639.3); 3) Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (males: 32.0, 95% CI = 28.235.8); 4) Transportation and Material Moving (males: 30.4, 95% CI = 28.832.0; females: 12.5, 95% CI = 10.214.7); 5) Protective Service (females: 14.0, 95% CI = 9.919.2); and 6) Healthcare Support (females: 10.6, 95% CI = 9.212.1).
Rates could be calculated for 118 detailed occupational groups for males and 32 for females (Supplementary Table 2, https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/84275). Some occupational groups with suicide rates significantly higher than those of the study population were only identifiable through observation at the detailed group level (Table 2). Among males, these detailed groups included the following seven groups: 1) Fishing and hunting workers (part of the Farming, Fishing, and Forestry major occupational group); 2) Machinists (Production major group); 3) Welding, soldering, and brazing workers (Production major group); 4) Chefs and head cooks (Food Preparation and Serving Related major group); 5) Construction managers (Management major group); 6) Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers (Management major group); and 7) Retail salespersons (Sales and Related major group). Among females, these detailed groups included the following five groups: 1) Artists and related workers (Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media major group); 2) Personal care aides (Personal Care and Service major group); 3) Retail salespersons (Sales and Related major group); 4) Waiters and waitresses (Food Preparation and Serving Related major group); and 5) Registered nurses (Healthcare Practitioners and Technical major group). Groups with highest rate point estimates (e.g., female Artists and related workers and male Fishing and hunting workers) also had wide 95% CIs (Table 2), based on relatively low numbers of decedents and relatively small working populations (Supplementary Table 2, https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/84275).
This report used data from 32 states to provide updated population-level suicide rates for major occupational groups and new information on suicide rates for major industry groups and detailed occupational groups. Estimates for most major occupational groups are similar, although not directly comparable, to previous estimates that were based on 2015 NVDRS data from 17 states (4). Recent NVDRS expansion to 50 states might facilitate direct comparisons over time by industry and occupation nationwide. These findings highlight opportunities for targeted prevention strategies and further investigation of work-related factors that might increase risk of suicide. Previous research indicates suicide risk is associated with low-skilled work (5), lower education (6), lower absolute and relative socioeconomic status (7), work-related access to lethal means (8), and job stress, including poor supervisory and colleague support, low job control, and job insecurity (9). Industry, labor, and professional associations, as well as employers, and state and local health departments can use this information to focus attention and resources on suicide prevention. Future research might examine these and other risk factors among the industries and occupations identified in this report as having high suicide rates.
This report estimated suicide rates comprehensively for industry and occupational groups meeting sample size criteria and identified groups with rates higher than the studys population rate. Although relative comparisons of suicide rates in this manner are useful for prevention purposes, these results should not overshadow the essential fact that the suicide rate in the U.S. working-age population overall has increased by 40% in less than 2 decades. Therefore, all industry sectors and occupational groups can contribute to reducing suicide incidence.
The findings in this report are subject to at least five limitations. First, this study did not address confounding factors that might account for different suicide rates among and within industry or occupational groups. Second, it did not address suicide among unemployed decedents, military or unpaid workers, or those aged >64 years (9). Third, the numerator and denominator data were not a direct match for calculating rates; death certificates reflect decedents usual industry and occupation, and available population size data refer to the number of persons by current job. Fourth, the results are based on data from 32 states and are therefore not nationally representative. Finally, three states contributing to the 2016 NVDRS did not collect data on all violent deaths. Other limitations of NVDRS analysis using death certificate industry and occupation data have been described previously (4).
All industries and occupations can
benefit from a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.
CDCs Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of
Policy, Programs, and Practices (1) provides strategies with
the best available evidence to prevent suicide and can serve
as a resource for communities and employers.
Workplace-specific strategies include 1) promoting
help-seeking; 2) integrating workplace safety and health and
wellness programs to advance the overall well-being of
workers; 3) referring workers to financial and other helping
services; 4) facilitating time off and benefits to cover
supportive services; 5) training personnel to detect and
appropriately respond to suicide risk; 6) creating
opportunities for employee social connectedness; 7) reducing
access to lethal means among persons at risk; and 8)
creating a crisis response plan sensitive to the needs of
coworkers, friends, family, and others who might themselves
be at risk (1,10). Other community-based strategies include
strengthening economic supports, strengthening access and
delivery of care, teaching coping and problem-solving
skills, and responsibly reporting suicide (e.g., not
providing details) (1). Further workplace prevention
resources are available at https://workplacesuicideprevention.com
and help is available at Natioanl SUicide Helpline
1-800-273-TALK (8255). that the national Crisis Text Line -
text "SOS" to 741741.
These jobs have highest suicide
rates in the United States, according to the CDC -
From 2000 to 2016, the suicide rate among the US working-age population people 16 to 64 increased 34%, the report says.
Their dad killed himself on the farm where he was born. They hope his story will save others
Using information from the 17 states that participated in the 2012 and 2015 National Violent Death Reporting System, the CDC analyzed the suicide deaths of 22,053 Americans of working age. Occupations were classified using the Standard Occupational Classifications from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2015, the construction and extraction field had the highest rates of suicides for men, with 53.2 suicides per 100,000 working people. Women in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media had a suicide rate of 15.6 per 100,000 working people in 2015.
Arts, design, entertainment, sports and media saw the largest increase in suicides among men: 47% from 2012 to 2015.
ASKING FOR HELP
The suicide rate in the United States has seen sharp increases in recent years. Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.
There is also a crisis text line. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.
The lines are staffed by a mix of paid professionals and unpaid volunteers trained in crisis and suicide intervention. The confidential environment, the 24-hour accessibility, a caller's ability to hang up at any time and the person-centered care have helped its success, advocates say.The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.
For women, the largest increase 54% from 2012 to 2015 was among food preparation and serving-related occupations, such as chefs, bar managers and baristas.
US suicide rates increased more than 25% since 1999, CDC says
The occupational groups with the highest rates of suicide for men were:
Construction and extraction: jobs such as carpenters, electricians and miners
Arts, design, entertainment, sports and media: jobs such as illustrators, tattooists and professional sports players
Installation, maintenance and repair: jobs such as mechanics, cable installers and commercial divers
For women, they were:
Arts, design, entertainment, sports and media: jobs such as illustrators, animators, tattooists and professional sports players
Protective service: jobs such as police officers, private investigators and TSA workers
Health care support: jobs such as dental assistants, massage therapists and pharmacy aides
For both sexes, the occupational group with the lowest rate of suicides was education, training and library. This includes jobs such as teachers, professors and archivists. However, the rates for women were too low to report in some occupational fields.
There are some limitations to the research. These results might not be nationally representative because they come from only 17 states, the report notes.
More knowledge about the distribution of suicide by career group could be useful to help inform prevention programs and policies, it said.
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Because many adults spend a substantial amount of their time at work, the workplace is an important but underutilized location for suicide prevention, the authors say.
Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016, according to a report released by the CDC this year. Suicide rates rose in nearly every state from 1999 to 2016, and in half of these states, the increase was more than 30%.
When it comes to suicide prevention, the CDC recommends strategies such as enhancing social connectedness and expanding access to relevant resources, strengthening state or local economic supports, implementing practices that encourage help-seeking and decrease stigma, and providing referrals to mental health and other services.
How to get help: In the United States,
call the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
1-800-273-8255 and the national Crisis
Text Line text "SOS" to 741741
International Association for Suicide
Worldwide also provide contact
information for crisis centers around the world.
Suicide Rates by Major Occupational Group 17 States, 2012 and 2015
Weekly / November 16, 2018 / 67(45);12531260
Please note: An erratum has been published for this report. To view the erratum, please click here.
Cora Peterson, PhD1; Deborah M. Stone, ScD2; Suzanne M. Marsh, MPA3; Pamela K. Schumacher4; Hope M. Tiesman, PhD3; Wendy LiKamWa McIntosh, MPH2; Colby N. Lokey, MS2; Aimée-Rika T. Trudeau, MPH2; Brad Bartholow, PhD2; Feijun Luo, PhD1 (View author affiliations)
View suggested citation
What is already known about this topic?
From 2000 to 2016, the U.S. suicide rate among working aged (1664 years) adults increased 34% from 12.9 per 100,000 population to 17.3.
What is added by this report?
2012 and 2015 National Violent Death Reporting System data from 17 states indicated the major occupational group with the highest male suicide rate was Construction and Extraction (43.6  and 53.2 ). The Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media major occupation group had the highest female suicide rate in 2012 (11.7) and 2015 (15.6).
What are the implications for public health practice?
A comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, including workplace-based approaches, is needed. CDCs technical package of strategies to prevent suicide is a resource for communities and workplaces to identify prevention strategies with the best available evidence.
Article has an altmetric score of 1250
During 20002016, the suicide rate among the U.S. working age population (persons aged 1664 years) increased 34%, from 12.9 per 100,000 population to 17.3 (https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars). To better understand suicide among different occupational groups and inform suicide prevention efforts, CDC analyzed suicide deaths by Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) major groups for decedents aged 1664 years from the 17 states participating in both the 2012 and 2015 National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nvdrs). The occupational group with the highest male suicide rate in 2012 and 2015 was Construction and Extraction (43.6 and 53.2 per 100,000 civilian noninstitutionalized working persons, respectively), whereas the group with the highest female suicide rate was Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (11.7  and 15.6 ). The largest suicide rate increase among males from 2012 to 2015 (47%) occurred in the Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media occupational group (26.9 to 39.7) and among females, in the Food Preparation and Serving Related group, from 6.1 to 9.4 (54%). CDCs technical package of strategies to prevent suicide is a resource for communities, including workplace settings (1).
NVDRS combines data on all violent deaths (defined as those resulting from the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or a group or community), including suicide, based on death certificates, coroner/medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports. Data on usual lifetime occupation among 22,053 suicide decedents aged 1664 years from the 17 states* that participated in NVDRS in 2012 and 2015 were analyzed. CDCs National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Industry and Occupation Computerized Coding System (NIOCCS 3.0) (https://wwwn.cdc.gov/nioccs3) was used to assign 2010 U.S. Census civilian occupation and industry codes to NVDRS decedent records based on decedents usual lifetime occupation and industry as reported on the death certificate. Results are reported by 2010 SOC major groups, converted from U.S. Census codes by NIOCCS. Records that could not be coded by NIOCCS were manually coded using the NIOCCS computer-assisted feature. All coding assignments were reviewed by industry and occupation coding experts for accuracy.
Suicide counts are presented by year, sex, and usual lifetime occupational group. Suicide rates were calculated using annual civilian noninstitutionalized working population counts by occupational group (based on longest job held during the previous calendar year) from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (2) as the denominator; 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using the National Center for Health Statistics method for death rates (3). The rate change from 2012 to 2015 is presented for each occupational group by sex, as is each groups rank for rate change (i.e., where rank position 1 signifies the greatest suicide rate increase). Decedents whose NVDRS data from coroner/medical examiner reports or law enforcement reports indicated that the decedent was not employed at the time of death (unemployed, disabled, incarcerated, homemaker, or student) were excluded from rate calculations, as were decedents with military or unpaid occupations, and those with insufficient information to classify occupation. Separate analyses of suicide deaths among males in agriculture-related SOC detailed groups were conducted; such rates were not calculated for female decedents because of small numbers.
NIOCCS classified 83% (8,858 in 2012 and 9,508 in 2015) of decedent records (Table 1); this count includes those that the NIOCCS program determined to have insufficient information to classify occupation. After expert review of NIOCCS automated code assignments, 231 (3%) of 2012 records and 290 (3%) of 2015 records were recoded. The remaining 1,799 (2012) and 1,888 (2015) (17% for both years) records were coded using the NIOCCS computer-assisted feature. For 2012 and 2015 combined, 5,089 (23%) decedents were not included in suicide rate calculations because they were in the military, had unpaid occupations (e.g., did not work, homemaker, or student), or had insufficient information to classify lifetime occupation. Another 2,236 (10%) were excluded because they were not employed at the time of death.
In both 2012 and 2015, the largest percentage of male suicides (19%20% of decedents) occurred among those in the Construction and Extraction group (SOC 47) (Table 2); the largest percentage of female suicides in both years occurred among decedents with unpaid occupations (29%). The largest percentage of female suicides among classifiable occupations occurred in the Office and Administrative Support group (SOC 43) in both years (15%). In both years, the highest suicide rates among males were in the Construction and Extraction group (43.6 in 2012 and 53.2 in 2015 per 100,000 civilian noninstitutionalized working persons) (Table 3). Among females, the highest suicide rates in both years were in the Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media group (SOC 27) (11.7 in 2012 and 15.6 in 2015). Among males, the largest suicide rate increase from 2012 to 2015 (47%) occurred in the Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media group (from 26.9 to 39.7), and among females (54%) in the Food Preparation and Serving Related group (SOC 35) (from 6.1 to 9.4). Rate changes among females in six SOC major groups were not reported because of small numbers (=20 decedents in one or both years).
The 2012 and 2015 male suicide rates among Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers (SOC 119013, a subgroup of the SOC 11 Management major group) were 44.9 (CI = 34.257.9) and 32.2 (CI = 24.242.0) per 100,000, based on 59 and 54 suicides in 2012 and 2015, respectively. The 2012 and 2015 male suicide rates for Agricultural Workers (SOC 452000, a subgroup of the SOC 45 Farming, Fishing, and Forestry major group) were 20.4 (CI = 13.829.1) and 17.3 (CI = 12.123.9), based on 30 and 36 suicides in 2012 and 2015, respectively.
Suicide rates varied widely across occupational groups in both 2012 and 2015, and rates among males and females increased in many occupational groups. The etiology of suicide is multifactorial, and identifying the specific role that occupational factors might play in suicide risk is complicated; both work (e.g., little job control or job insecurity) and nonwork (e.g., relationship conflict) factors are associated with psychological distress and suicide (4). The relationship between occupation and suicide might be confounded by access to lethal means on the job and socioeconomic factors such as lower income and education (5,6). Previous studies have employed a range of methodologies to study the proposed association between suicide and occupation and, at times, have arrived at different conclusions. For example, although this analysis aligns with another that found high suicide rates among construction workers in Colorado (7), a meta-analysis using an international occupational classification system found persons in other less-skilled occupations, such as laborers and cleaners, to be at higher risk (6).
A better understanding of how suicides are distributed by occupational group might help inform prevention programs and policies. Because many adults spend a substantial amount of their time at work, the workplace is an important but underutilized location for suicide prevention (8). Workplaces could potentially benefit from suicide prevention activities. Additional and tailored prevention approaches might be necessary to support workers at higher risk. Workplace suicide prevention efforts to date have focused primarily on early detection and tertiary intervention through the training of persons (i.e. gatekeepers) to identify those at risk for suicide and refer them to supporting services. However, more research on the role of the workplace in primary suicide prevention is needed, including improving working conditions and reducing stress (8).
The findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations. First, because of the nature of the data that were available, and consistent with previous research methods, this report compared decedents usual lifetime occupation as recorded on the death certificate with occupations of the employed population to calculate suicide rates. Additional data from coroner/medical examiner and law enforcement reports were used to exclude decedents identified as not in the labor force at time of death. Separate analyses indicated that if no such exclusion were applied, suicide rates would have been higher for all groups, although the top and bottom eight ranked occupational groups in 2015 by male suicide rate would maintain the same rank position, as would the top three and bottom four occupational groups by female suicide rate. Second, this report did not address confounding factors that might account for higher or lower rates of suicide between and within occupational groups, including education and income (9,10). Within SOC major occupational groups, employee education and income might vary widely. For example, the Management SOC major group includes farmers, ranchers, and chief executives of large companies, and the Construction and Extraction group includes both employees who might be salaried (e.g., supervisors) and those who might be paid hourly wages (e.g., roofer helpers). Future research might benefit from using more narrowly defined occupational groups and controlling for education and income to refine understanding of the relationship between occupation and suicide. Third, industry and occupation data obtained from death certificates rely on the accuracy and completeness of employment information provided by decedents family members. It is also possible that completeness and accuracy of that information might be associated with decedents job history. For example, categorization based on single lifetime industry and occupation might not accurately reflect employment for those persons with multiple lifetime occupations and those who worked across industries. Finally, this report is based on data from 17 U.S. states that participated in NVDRS in 2012 and 2015, and the data are not nationally representative.
To address the multifactorial etiology
of suicide, CDC recommends a comprehensive approach to
prevention (1). Strategies might include enhancing social
connectedness and expanding access to relevant resources,
strengthening state or local economic supports, implementing
practices that encourage help-seeking and decrease stigma,
and providing referrals to mental health and other services
(1). Strategies can be implemented to assure support and
reduce access to lethal means among persons at risk.
Decision makers, including employers, can create a response
plan, should a suicide affect their organization. Surviving
family and friends can be supported to reduce their own
suicide risk. The media can follow reporting recommendations
to avoid sensationalized reporting and can refrain from
providing details on suicide methods (1). Further workplace
prevention resources are available at
https://theactionalliance.org/external icon, and help is
available at 1-800-273-TALK.