Which Occupations Have the Highest Suicide Rates?

Leslie Citrome, MD, MPH


June 06, 2013

High-Risk Occupations for Suicide

Roberts SE, Jaremin B, Lloyd K
Psychol Med. 2013;43:1231-1240

Study Summary

Roberts and colleagues collected information on the number of suicides and the number of people employed in every occupation in England and Wales from 2001 to 2005. To assess changes over time in occupational suicide rates, similar information on the number of suicides during the years 1979-1980 and 1982-1983 were obtained. During 1979-1980 and 1982-1983, veterinarians had the highest rate of suicide, followed by merchant seafarers, hotel porters, pharmacists, hospital porters, dentists, musicians, steel erectors, roofers and glaziers, and doctors. For some of these professions, high suicide rates were explained by easy occupational access to a method of suicide. However, by 2001-2005, significant reductions in suicide rates for some of these occupations were evident, so that veterinarians, pharmacists, dentists, and doctors no longer ranked in the top 30 occupations associated with suicide.

The occupations associated with significant increases in suicide rates over time were all manual occupations. Occupations associated with declining suicide rates were mainly professional or nonmanual. Variation in suicide rates that could be explained by socioeconomic group almost doubled over time from 11.4% in 1979-1980 and 1982-1983 to 20.7% in 2001-2005. Roberts and colleagues concluded that socioeconomic forces now seem to be a major determinant of high occupational suicide rates in Britain.


Suicide continues to be an important global mental health problem, causing almost 1 million deaths annually. It is difficult to generalize from the British data to other countries as there are many different regional economic, cultural, and politicosocial considerations in both the developing and developed world. However, the identification of an increase in suicide rates among manual occupations, occurring during a period of economic prosperity, deserves a closer look.



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