Washington: Can the type of job you choose affect your risk of suicide? Possibly, according to a new U.S. report that found for certain occupations, the odds of suicide were significantly higher.
In 2012, approximately 40,000 suicides were reported in the United States, making suicide the 10th leading reported cause of death for persons aged ≥16 years. From 2000 to 2012, rates of suicide among persons in this age group increased 21.1%, from 13.3 per 100,000 to 16.1.
CDC’s (Centers for disease control and prevention) National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) collects information on violent deaths, including suicides, from multiple sources, including death certificates, coroner and medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports, to monitor trends, understand violent death characteristics and risk factors, and inform prevention efforts. The most recent NVDRS data set available for analysis (2012) includes data from 17 states.
But among farmers, fishers and foresters, the suicide rate was dramatically higher — at 85 suicides per 100,000 people. For males in those jobs, the rate was even greater. Their suicide rate was 90.5 suicides per 100,000, according to the report.
“People working in certain occupations are at greater risk for suicide due to job isolation, a stressful work environment, trouble at work and home, lower income and education, and less access to mental health services,” said lead researcher Wendy LiKamWa McIntosh. She’s a health scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Farmers have additional risk factors like social isolation and unwillingness to seek mental health services,” McIntosh said. The report also noted that farmers’ exposure to pesticides may affect their neurological system and contribute to depression.
Other occupations that carried significantly higher-than-normal rates of suicide included construction and extraction, with 53 suicides per 100,000; and installation, maintenance and repair with 48 suicides per 100,000, the study found.
For construction workers, the report authors suggested that a lack of steady work, isolation and a fragmented community might play a role in their higher risk. The investigators theorized that people working in installation, maintenance and repair may have long-term exposure to solvents that could damage their neurological systems. That might contribute to memory loss and depression, the researchers suggested.
Men working in fishing, forestry or farming had the highest rates of suicide for their gender.
Among women, the highest rate was seen in those working in protective services, such as policing and firefighting. Their rate was 14 per 100,000. Men in the protective services field had a suicide rate of 34 per 100,000, the report noted.
People working in protective services must cope with shift work and extreme stress, such as traumatic and violent situations. They also have easy access to the means to kill themselves, the report pointed out.
“To reduce these suicide rates, employers need to focus on suicide prevention at the workplace, including employee-assistance programs and training to spot signs of suicide,” McIntosh said.
Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, pointed out that “work is increasingly stressful.”
People take their own lives “mostly because they are depressed,” he said. “We live in a 24-hour world, so it can be easy to feel overburdened, which can lead to depression,” Manevitz added.
Companies need assistance programs that look for work stresses that may become overwhelming and lead to feelings of isolation and helplessness. Fellow co-workers also need to be on the lookout for people who talk of killing themselves or seem depressed, he said.
In some professions, that may be harder to do than in others. For example, people working in farming, forestry and fishing may feel that it’s a sign of weakness to seek help for depression, Manevitz suggested.
Earlier studies of suicide by occupation type in the United States have examined one occupational group at a time, such as police suicides, or have studied data from a specific U.S. state . This analysis includes recent data from 17 states and an analysis by sex. The proportions of suicides among males (77.2%) and females (22.8%) in this analysis were similar to those reported nationally in 2012 (78.3% and 21.7%, respectively)
The job categories with the least suicides included personal care and service; office and administrative support; and education, training and library. Each of these categories had eight or fewer suicides per 100,000 people, the report found.