Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation

National Violent Death Reporting System, 32 States, 2016

Cora Peterson, PhD; Aaron Sussell, PhD; Jia Li, MS; Pamela K. Schumacher; Kristin Yeoman, MD; Deborah M. Stone, ScD

Disclosures

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2020;69(3):57-62. 

In This Article

Discussion

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 study's 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. CDC's 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 https://theactionalliance.org/communities/workplace and help is available at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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