Which Occupations Have the Highest Suicide Rates?

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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  • Donald

    August 27th, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Well I would never wanat my children to be entertainers because whether or not it is true or it is just because they get more recognition but it always seems like these are the ones always getting into trouble with drugs and then who always have more issues with suicides and overdoses. That is not the life I would choose for myself and not the life I would choose for my son or daughter no matter how much fame and fortune it could bring.

  • P.G

    August 27th, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    Access to lethal means is not the only criteria.I think the stress that an occupation exerts on a person and nature of work and the psychology due to it are all characteristics that would determine the risk for suicide.Surprised they didn consider all of this.

  • Danielle

    August 28th, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    Given the uncertainty with the economy today, I can certainly see how that and financial instability could play such a large role in suicide rates worldwide.

    We don’t necessarily like to thnk about just how huge a role money plays in our lives, but I think that we all know that it does. If you are faced with job loss and no longer being able to take care of your family there are many people upon whome this weighs very heavily. They just can’t handle the pressure that this makes them feel so they turn to something horiffic like suicide.

    I don’t agree that this is the right choice and I would always hope that someone would reach out and ask for help rather than feeling like this was their only choice but I think that there are some who think that this is the noble thing for them to do and that their families are better off without them being around.

  • lorri

    August 28th, 2013 at 7:09 AM

    The performing arts and entertainment are tough careers because you are constantly needing to be liked to stay in the forefront. I do believe more suicide prevention needs to take place as no one can stay in the limelight forever and artists struggle with this.

  • everet

    March 4th, 2016 at 6:15 PM

    % of inbalmers commit suicide ?

  • James

    February 8th, 2020 at 9:10 AM

    Psychologists have the highest suicide rate of “any” profession!
    The founding father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud was himself a very ill man. He was a homosexual-paedophile-drug-addict riddled with cancer and even after THIRTY operations on his head (that’s were all the poison was) he couldn’t even heal himself from smoking. How can ANYONE really think anything he created could heal or be of help?
    Psychology is a “faith” it’s a cult and the disciples are killing themselves after they have destroyed the lives of countless clients who they pathologized (not healed) and medicated. The have even pathologized themselves killing themselves! “theoretical incohesiveness”. Priceless!
    It’s a cult.

  • Ross

    March 30th, 2022 at 2:49 PM

    Writing this 2 years later, just in case someone happens to stumble across the comment above. Psychology is not based in faith. Like any other scientific field, theories are based in empirical evidence and hypotheses are subject to rigorous testing. Effective therapists utilize evidence-based interventions. It is a relatively new field and it is far from perfect, but to say that it is a cult is totally baseless and unhelpful. Very few clinical psychologists in the US practice psychoanalysis and while Freud’s work has provided a foundation, much of it is considered obsolete.
    The claim that “psychologists have the highest suicide rate among any profession” is fabricated. There is evidence that psychologists are at higher risk of suicide. Given the nature of the work, this should not be surprising, and it says nothing about the validity of the profession. In fact, it seems that physicians are actually among the most likely to die by suicide.

    Doctors get sick – does this mean that Medicine (the field) is ineffective? Hippocrates, who is considered the founder of medicine, created the humoral theory. With the information we have today, this theory seems ridiculous. So I suppose modern medicine is illegitimate because its founder created a theory that has been disproven? This is the logic being presented in the comment above. It is absurd and I’ve taken the time to explain this because I would hate for someone to read it and be dissuaded from seeking the help that they need from a professional who can provide it.

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