Suicide rates by job highest in farming, fishing and forestry — CDC

© Hans Deryk
Noticing that suicide rates had jumped over 21 percent within a dozen years, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study, finding that suicide rates were highest among workers who were isolated or “precariously employed.”

There were 40,000 suicides in 2012, according to the CDC’s Violent Death Reporting System, and out of that data, CDC researchers analyzed 12,312 suicides in 17 states, organizing them by occupational group to see the frequency of self-inflicted deaths in those fields.

“Analysis… indicated that workers in the farming, fishing and forestry occupational group had the highest rate of suicide (84.5 per 100,000), followed by workers in construction and extraction (53.3), and installation, maintenance and repair (47.9),” said the CDC report released Friday.

Among the dataset, 9,509, or 77.2 percent, were male, and 2,801, or 22.8 percent, were female. The highest proportion of suicides occurred among persons aged 45 to 54 years, while the lowest was among working persons aged 16 to 24 years.

The CDC said factors contributing to suicide might be work-home imbalance, socioeconomic inequities – lower incomes, lower education level and lack of access to health care.

The study suggested that high rates of suicide among farmers could be attributed to “chronic exposure to pesticides [which] might affect the neurologic system and contribute to depressive symptoms.”

The isolation of farmers might be another factor as well, as may be the potential for financial loss, barriers or unwillingness to seek mental health services and access to lethal means.

Other findings were that men in those occupations – fishing, farming, forestry – also accounted for the highest rate of suicide at 90.5 per 100,000, whereas the highest rate among females was 14.1 per 100,000 in the protective service occupational group, which includes law enforcement and firefighters.

The CDC said in 2012, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death among persons aged 16 years and older in the US. The rates of suicide among persons 16 years and older increased 21.1 percent from 13.3 percent per 100,000 people to 16.1 percent between 2000 to 2012.

The lowest rates of suicide were found in education, training and library occupational groups.

Prior studies of suicide among professions only examined one occupation at a time, such as police suicides, or were studied from a specific state. This study had 17 states and included male and females.

Military occupations were not included in the analysis, because the CDC was not able to determine whether they were on active duty or retired or what occupation they held in the military.

The CDC recommended prevention strategies include enhancing social support, community connectedness, access to preventative services and reduction of stigma and barriers over mental illness, in order to help those seeking encouragement.