Farmers, Fishermen, Foresters More Likely to Commit Suicide

CDC study shows workers in some occupations five times more like to commit suicide

Can the type of job you choose affect your risk of suicide? Possibly, according to a new U.S. report that found for certain occupations, the odds of suicide were significantly higher.

From 2000 to 2012, the overall rates of suicide for people aged 16 and older rose 21 percent, the study found. That works out to an approximate increase from 13 to 16 suicides per every 100,000 people in the United States.

But among farmers, fishers and foresters, the suicide rate was dramatically higher — at 85 suicides per 100,000 people. For males in those jobs, the rate was even greater. Their suicide rate was 90.5 suicides per 100,000, according to the report.

“People working in certain occupations are at greater risk for suicide due to job isolation, a stressful work environment, trouble at work and home, lower income and education, and less access to mental health services,” said lead researcher Wendy LiKamWa McIntosh. She’s a health scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Farmers have additional risk factors like social isolation and unwillingness to seek mental health services,” McIntosh said. The report also noted that farmers’ exposure to pesticides may affect their neurological system and contribute to depression.

Other occupations that carried significantly higher-than-normal rates of suicide included construction and extraction, with 53 suicides per 100,000; and installation, maintenance and repair with 48 suicides per 100,000, the study found.

For construction workers, the report authors suggested that a lack of steady work, isolation and a fragmented community might play a role in their higher risk. The investigators theorized that people working in installation, maintenance and repair may have long-term exposure to solvents that could damage their neurological systems. That might contribute to memory loss and depression, the researchers suggested.

Men working in fishing, forestry or farming had the highest rates of suicide for their gender.

Among women, the highest rate was seen in those working in protective services, such as policing and firefighting. Their rate was 14 per 100,000. Men in the protective services field had a suicide rate of 34 per 100,000, the report noted.

Physician Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, pointed out that “work is increasingly stressful.”

People take their own lives “mostly because they are depressed,” he said. “We live in a 24-hour world, so it can be easy to feel overburdened, which can lead to depression,” Manevitz added.

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