According to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, there’s a lesser-known occupational hazard associated with certain jobs: suicide.
In the United States, suicide results in roughly 36,000 deaths per year. Suicide became the leading cause of injury-related deaths back in 2009, according to Yahoo Health.
Worldwide, that statistic is close to one million per year. Recently, there’s been an uptick in workplace suicides, which is what the current research delves into.
Researchers examined the difference between workplace and non-workplace suicide rates in the United States between 2003 and 2010, based on numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injury database.
A little over 1,700 workers died as a result of workplace suicide over the eight-year span, which equated to a rough rate of 1.5 people per million members of the workforce, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Men were more than 15 times more likely to commit suicide in the workplace, and the 65-74 demographic saw a four times greater risk than the 16-24 set.
According to author Hope M. Tiesman, Ph.D, the researchers discovered specific occupational fields that seem to bump the risk of workplace suicide.
Here’s what some of the study’s new statistics looked like, and some possible reasons for the higher rates based on past research, broken down by field:
Law enforcement officers = 5.3 per million
Roughly 85 percent of the deaths involved firearms, according to the study, which indicates easy access to weapons may play a role in higher suicide rates.
Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations = 5.1 per million
“Factors that may contribute to this risk include the potential for financial losses, chronic physical illness, social isolation, work/home imbalance, depression due to chronic pesticide exposure, and barriers and unwillingness to seek mental health treatment,” the authors write in their paper.
Installation, maintenance, and repair = 3.3 per million
As a broad category, installation, maintenance and repair saw higher-than-average numbers, but one sub-group saw a notably high suicide rate at 7.1 deaths per million workers. “A novel finding was that those in automotive maintenance and repair occupations also had significantly higher workplace suicide rates,” Tiesman says.
“Occupation can define a person’s identity, and personal issues can creep into the workplace,” she says. “The lines between personal and work life are shrinking. We know that suicide is multifactorial in nature, and therefore need to take advantage of multiple opportunities to intervene in an individual’s life — including the workplace.”
According to Yahoo Health, “Mental-health professionals and employers should take special note of those individuals working in professions at high-risk of suicide.”
“[They] could consider the workplace as a potential site for suicide-prevention purposes, especially among the occupations at highest risk for workplace suicide,” says Tiesman.
In addition, Tiesman hopes the current study will highlight how blurred the lines between work and home life have become. “Occupational safety and health professionals should recognize that non-work factors can and do contribute to safety and health issues on the job,” she says.