HealthDay News — Workplace suicides are on the rise in the United States, and people in protective services jobs — such as police and firefighters — are at the greatest risk, a new study found.
“Occupation can largely define a person’s identity, and psychological risk factors for suicide, such as depression and stress, can be affected by the workplace,” said lead investigator Hope Tiesman, PhD. She is an epidemiologist with the division of safety research at the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The researchers analyzed national data from 2003 to 2010 and identified slightly more than 1,700 suicides that occurred in the workplace — or 1.5 per one million workers.
People in protective services jobs had the highest workplace suicide rate at 5.3 per million workers. That’s more than three times the national workplace suicide rate of 1.5 per million, the researchers said.
The second highest workplace suicide rate was among people in farming, fishing and forestry (5.1 per million workers), followed by those in installation, maintenance and repair occupations (3.3 per million), the study found. However, a subset of workers in this category — those in auto maintenance and repair — had a workplace suicide rate of 7.1 per million workers, the researchers said.
Workplace suicides were 15 times higher for men than for women, and almost four times higher for workers aged 65 to 74 than for those 16 to 24. In comparison, the overall suicide rate outside the workplace was 144 per one million people.
Suicides in the military were not included in the analysis due to data collection issues, according to the authors of the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“A more comprehensive view of work life, public health, and work safety could enable a better understanding of suicide risk factors and how to address them,” Tiesman said in a journal news release. “The workplace should be considered a potential site to … train managers in the detection of suicidal behavior, especially among the high-risk occupations identified in this paper.”
Tiesman HM, et al. Suicide in U.S Workplaces, 2003–2010. Am J Prev Med. 2015; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2014.12.011.