Occupation can be a risk factor for suicide. In addition to psychological issues, poor physical health, and general life stress, the occupation that someone holds can present an additional suicide risk via access to lethal means. According to a recent study conducted by S.E. Roberts of the College of Medicine at Swansea University in the United Kingdom, doctors, nurses, and veterinarians had some of the highest suicide rates by occupation in the past 30 years. The results of this study reveal some positive trends and raise awareness about other occupations that can pose a heightened risk for suicide.
Roberts looked at occupation, access to deadly means, socioeconomic status, gender, and national economic condition over a 30-year period to determine which factors most influenced occupational suicide rates. The results revealed that in the early 1980s, veterinarians, dentists, doctors, pharmacists, and farmers had some of the highest suicide rates. This could be influenced by easy access to pharmaceuticals and weapons.
Then, in the early 2000s, these occupations saw decreases in suicides. At the same time, manual labor occupations had increases in suicides. These occupations included construction, merchant marines, coal mining, trash collectors, and drivers, among others. Roberts believes that the reorganization within these industries could be partly responsible for increased rates of unemployment and subsequent increases in suicides.
When Roberts looked at socioeconomic status as a risk factor, it was revealed that suicide rates doubled in the 30-year period for those most economically disadvantaged. Unlike early statistics, it appears that socioeconomic condition has emerged as a more salient risk factor than access to lethal means in this British sample. Further, men were more likely than women to commit suicide across all occupations and socioeconomic statuses.
Another risk factor that was identified was isolation, as artists, actors and entertainers had higher rates of suicide than some other occupational groups. Despite increases in some areas, Roberts pointed out that interventions aimed at reducing suicide in high risk occupations, such as one tailored for farmers, have proven to be effective at reducing suicides over time. Roberts added, “This indicates that carefully targeted suicide prevention initiatives for other occupations could be important.
Roberts, S. E., B. Jaremin, and K. Lloyd. (2013). High-risk occupations for suicide. Psychological Medicine 43.6 (2013): 1231-40.ProQuest. Web.
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