Farmers, fishermen, and construction workers run the highest risk of dying by suicide, according to a new federal study that examined suicide risk by profession. Among office jobs, architects, engineers and artists had the highest rates of self-harm, the study of suicide in 17 states found.
The suicide rate for managers across all fields was the same as the average of the states studied — about 20 suicides per 100,000 people — and, as with every other occupation, men were far more likely to take their own lives than women, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paper found.
“Knowing how suicide rates vary by occupation allows employers and other suicide prevention specialists to improve suicide prevention programs,” said Wendy LiKam Wa McIntosh, lead author of the report, which was made public Thursday, and a health scientist in the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention.
She said she hopes the report’s findings will help employers design strategies to prevent suicide — including wellness and education programs — and encourage people showing signs of distress to seek help.
Fishermen and farmers — who are nearly all men — commit suicide at the highest rate of any profession: 85 per 100,000 workers, the study showed. For women, working as firefighters or police officers were the riskiest occupations, with 14 out of every 100,000 taking their own lives (compared to 34 out of 100,000 men in protective services).
The CDC report did not explain why people in certain professions are more likely to end their own lives, but previous research indicates that women working in traditionally male-dominated fields and in traumatic, violent, and lethal situations are at risk, McIntosh said.
The study correlated suicide data with professions in 17 states, and McIntosh warned that it could not be extrapolated to the rest of the country.
Of around 12,300 suicides in these 17 states, 1,324 people worked in construction and extraction (10.8 percent), and 1,049 (8.5 percent) worked in management — a category including top executives as well as others in management positions. But while construction workers have the second-highest rate of suicide (53.3 per 100,000), managers have a rate of 20.3.
Architects and engineers, artists, entertainers, and journalists, make up a relatively small proportion of the total number of suicides reported, but the rates of suicide for these occupations are among the top 10.
Librarians and teachers have the lowest suicide rate — 7.5 per 100,000, making it the least risky profession rate for men (15.1) and the second-least risky for women (4.7).
The findings are limited by the lack of available data on suicide. Only those 17 states reported suicide data in 2012, though reporting through The National Violent Death Reporting System has since expanded to 32 states. The CDC hopes to expand the reporting program to all 50 states in the near future, said McIntosh.
Another challenge is that the report relies on a person’s occupation as reported in a death certificate, coroner or medical examiner reports, and law enforcement reports. In 6 percent of cases, the individual’s occupation is unknown.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which helps people with suicidal thoughts, can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK.
Suicide rate by profession (out of 100,000 workers in these professions in 17 states)
Farming, fishing, and forestry: 84.5 out of 100,000
Construction and extraction: 53.3
Installation, maintenance, and repair: 47.9
Architecture and engineering: 32.2
Protective service: 30.5
Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media: 24.3
Computer and mathematical: 23.3
Transportation and material moving: 22.3
Healthcare practitioners and technical: 17.4
Life, physical, and social science: 16.7
Business and financial operations: 15.9
Health care support: 14.6
Community and social service: 13.6
Sales and related: 13.4
Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance: 13.3
Food preparation and serving related: 12.8
Personal care and service: 8
Office and administrative support: 7.9
Education, training, and library: 7.5
Overall: 20.3 (39.2 per 100,000 for men; 12.4 per 100,000 for women)
SOURCE: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention