Jobs With Highest Suicide Rates Identified

Megan Brooks

August 11, 2016

Individuals with jobs in farming, fishing, and forestry have the highest suicide rates, followed by those working in construction, according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2012, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with roughly 40,000 deaths by suicide reported, according to the CDC. From 2000 to 2012, rates of suicide jumped 21%, from 13.3 to 16.1 per 100,000.

To better guide suicide prevention efforts for US workers, Wendy LiKamWa McIntosh, MPH, of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and colleagues analyzed suicide rates in 17 states according to occupational categories using 2012 data from the National Violent Death Reporting System.

Among the 12,312 suicide deaths analyzed, 9509 (77.2%) were in men. Suicide was most prevalent among adults aged 45 to 54 years.

The suicide rate was highest among farming, fishing, and forestry workers (84.5 suicides per 100,000 persons), followed by those working construction and extraction jobs (53.3 per 100,000) and installation, maintenance, and repair jobs (47.9 per 100,000). Suicide rates in men were highest in these three occupational groups, at 90.5, 52.5, and 47.5 per 100,000, respectively.

Among women, the highest suicide rates were in those working in protective services occupations (eg, law enforcement officers and firefighters), at 14.1 per 100,000, followed by the legal profession (13.9 per 100,000) and healthcare and technical professions (13.3 per 100,000).

Targeted Prevention

Suicide rates may be high in these occupations for a number of reasons, including job-related isolation, stressful work environments, and work-life imbalance, the authors note in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of July 1.

In addition, farmers' long-term exposure to pesticides may affect the neurologic system and contribute to depressive symptoms. Workers in installation, maintenance, and repair jobs may also have long-term exposure to neurotoxic solvents.

Overall, the lowest suicide rate ― 7.5 per 100,000 ― was among education, training, and library workers.

The findings, the investigators note, suggest that men working in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations and women working in protective services occupations may benefit from targeted suicide prevention efforts.

They point out that evidence-based suicide prevention strategies implemented in the workplace have the potential to reduce the number of suicides among all occupational groups.

On that front, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (NAASP) Workplace Task Force has developed the Comprehensive Blueprint for Workplace Suicide Prevention, which addresses suicide prevention strategies, such as screening, mental health services and resources, suicide prevention training, life skills and social network promotion, and education and advocacy. The NAASP website has resources targeted specifically to the construction and law enforcement industries.

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65: 641-645. Full text

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