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May 27, 1974

Suicide Among Physicians

JAMA. 1974;228(9):1149-1150. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230340051036

Rose and Rosow1 present data that support the commonly held belief that suicide deaths among physicians are more prevalent than in the general population.

The authors first reviewed prior reports of suicide deaths among physicians and found that some of the studies, contrary to popular belief, indicated that physicians have no greater tendency to suicide than the general population. Yet, closer scrutiny of the selected earlier reports showed faults in methodology that made them unreliable. For example, some of the reports were based on data gleaned from the obituaries published in JAMA. Such data were sure to be misleading, since a survey of JAMA obituaries would furnish only descriptive data but not valid statistical data. Rose and Rosow confirmed that fact by scrupulously searching JAMA obituaries for records of 18 physicians known to have committed suicide in California during 1970. For those physicians, the JAMA listings disclosed nine suicides,