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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
August 9, 2016

Suicide-Prone Occupations

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Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2016;316(6):576. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.10233

A snapshot of suicide reports from 17 states has shown that people working in farming, fishing, and forestry jobs took their own lives at the highest rate among 22 occupation categories studied.

To help better direct prevention efforts, CDC researchers analyzed suicide rates in 2012 according to occupation from data in the National Violent Death Reporting System. Of the 12 312 suicide deaths they studied, 77% were men. People who took their own lives ranged in age from 16 to 102 years, but suicide was most prevalent among adults aged 45 to 54 years (McIntosh WL et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65[25]:641-645).

The suicide rate among farming, fishing, and forestry workers was highest, at 84.5 per 100 000 population, followed by construction and extraction at 53.3 per 100 000 and installation, maintenance, and repair at 47.9 per 100 000. Suicide rates among men also were highest in these 3 occupation categories. The lowest suicide rate, 7.5 per 100 000, was among education, training, and library employees.

Among women, those in protective service occupations such as law enforcement and firefighting had the highest suicide rate—14.1 per 100 000—followed by employees in the legal profession and health care practitioners.

The researchers wrote that suicide rates may be high among these occupations for a number of reasons including job-related isolation, stressful work environments, and work-life imbalance.

What’s more, they noted that farmers’ chronic exposure to pesticides may affect the neurological system and contribute to depressive symptoms. Similarly, workers in installation, maintenance, and repair occupations may have long-term exposure to neurotoxic solvents.

Employee assistance programs, suicide prevention training, and technology that provides online mental health screenings may help reduce suicides in these high-risk occupations and other industries as well, the authors wrote.

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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Section Editor: Rebecca Voelker, MSJ.