Since the turn of the millennium, suicide rates have seen a steady increase in the United States. Now, a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breaks the rates down by occupation. The findings were published online Nov. 16.
“Increasing suicide rates in the U.S. are a concerning trend that represent a tragedy for families and communities and impact the American workforce,” said Dr. Debra Houry, director of the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
By knowing which groups face a greater risk for suicide, Dr. Houry believes “focused prevention efforts” can be implemented to help save more lives.
Using data from 17 states, the researchers analyzed suicide rates in the working-age population during 2012 and 2015. To get a clear picture of trends, they were broken down by occupations and divided by gender.
When looking at men, construction and mining workers were found to have the highest rate of suicide — around 53 suicides per 100,000 workers. The second highest rate was found among men working in arts, entertainment, sports, and media. Those who worked installation, maintenance, and repair jobs ranked third.
As for high-risk occupational groups in women, the highest suicide rate was found in those who worked in the arts, entertainment, sports, and media — approximately 16 suicides per 100,000 workers. Female workers in protective services and health care support ranked second and third respectively.
For both men and women, the lowest suicide rate was found in education, training, and library occupations.
There are several factors that could help explain these trends. If a profession is less likely to offer stability, it could lead to higher stress levels. Mental health support may not be prioritized in certain industries, especially when access is determined by income levels.
The American Council on Science and Health also highlighted how the act of suicide can be impulsive. Keeping that in mind, it can be noted workers who operate heavy machinery and dangerous equipment also have more access to lethal means.
The report also stated the workplace could be an “underutilized location for suicide prevention,” as it is the place where workers spend the majority of their day.
“Workplace suicide prevention efforts to date have focused primarily on early detection and tertiary intervention through the training of persons (i.e. gatekeepers) to identify those at risk for suicide and refer them to supporting services,” the authors wrote. “However, more research on the role of the workplace in primary suicide prevention is needed, including improving working conditions and reducing stress.”
If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.