In the US, suicide results in roughly 36,000 deaths per year. And since 2009 suicide has been the leading cause of injury-related deaths. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine analyzes suicide trends in the workplace, identifying specific occupations with high incidents.
Occupations with the highest rates?
- Law enforcement officers (5.3 per million)
- Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (5.1 per million)
- Installation, maintenance, and repair (3.3 per million)
This study compared workplace versus non-workplace suicides in the U.S. between 2003 and 2010. During that time period there were 1700 workplace suicides (a rate of 1.5 per 1 million) with an overall US suicide rate of 144.1 per 1 million. The study used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injury (CFOI) database.
- The workplace suicide rate was 15 times higher for men than for women, and almost four times higher for workers aged 65-74 than for workers 16-24.
Why the high rates in these particular categories? One hypothesis suggests an increased risk based upon availability and access to lethal means. This would include access to pharmaceuticals for medical doctors and firearms for law enforcement officers.
This might help explain the higher rates of death among members of the second two categories noted (i.e. farmers and maintenance workers) who would routinely work with heavy, potentially dangerous equipment, and would also face workplace stressors such as social isolation, higher rates of chronic injuries and pain, a high risk of financial loss, and chronic exposure to toxic chemicals including many types of pesticides and solvents.
“This upward trend of suicides in the workplace underscores the need for additional research to understand occupation-specific risk factors and develop evidence-based programs that can be implemented in the workplace,” concluded Dr. Hope M. Tiesman, epidemiologist with the Division of Safety Research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and lead investigatory for the study.