Nov 17, 2019

CDC: The jobs with the highest rates of suicide in the U.S.

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Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018 analyzed suicide deaths among working-age Americans in 17 states to understand how different types of work influence a person's risk of killing oneself.

Why it matters: The CDC found that the suicide rate for people ages 16–64 years old rose 34% between 2000 and 2016, from 12.9 to 17.3 suicides per 100,000 workers. The federal agency also reported that suicide rates varied widely across occupational groups and that people involved in certain types of work, such as construction and extraction or production jobs, may be at a higher risk of suicide than other workers.

Men: In 2015, construction and extraction jobs had the highest rates of suicides for men. That year, 53.2 people working construction and extraction jobs died by suicide for every 100,000 male workers.

  • Arts, design, entertainment, sports and media jobs saw the steepest increase in suicide, jumping by 47% between 2012 and 2015 to 39.7 suicides per every 100,000 male workers.

Women: Sectors including the arts, design, entertainment, sports and media had the highest rates of suicide for women in 2015, with 15.6 dying by suicide per every 100,000 female workers.

  • Food preparation and service jobs saw the largest spike in suicide rate, growing 54% between 2012 and 2015 to 9.4 suicides for every 100,000 female workers.

Suicide resulted in the deaths of 8,658 working-age men and 2,735 working-age women in 2015 in the 17 states that were analyzed.

How it worked: The CDC examined suicide deaths among working-age people in 17 states in 2012 and 2015 and categorized them by occupational group defined by the Department of Labor. The CDC could not determine suicide rates for specific jobs.

  • The study was limited to the states that participated in the 2012 and 2015 National Violent Death Reporting System, a program the CDC developed to study the causes of violent deaths. The report is the most comprehensive study on suicide and work to date.

Causation: Determining how specific occupations influence suicide is complex because both work and non-work factors affect a person's risk of self-inflicted death, the report noted.

  • Comparing the suicide rates to BLS salary data from 2014 reveals a correlation between occupation group salary and suicide rate.
    • For example, the seven occupational groups with the highest suicide rates for male workers had median annual wages below $45,500. For females, the four occupational groups with the highest suicide rates also had median annual wages below $45,500.
  • The highest paying professions did not have high suicide rates. Correlation does not mean causation, but the relationship between salary and suicide merits more research.

The CDC recommends that employers support workers at high risk of suicide by implementing prevention methods.

"Because many adults spend a substantial amount of their time at work, the workplace is an important but underutilized location for suicide prevention"
— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Go deeper:

If you have any thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please pick up the phone right now and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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