Suicide and Occupation

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What is suicide?

Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die, and is a serious public health problem.

What do we know about the suicide problem?

In 2020, there were 45,979 deaths by suicide in the United States, which is about 1 suicide every 11 minutes.1 Suicide was the:

  • 2nd leading cause of death among people 10 to 34 years of age
  • 4th leading cause of death among people 35 to 44 years of age
  • 7th leading cause of death among people 45 to 54 years of age
  • 9th leading cause of death among people 55 to 64 years of age

Can occupation affect a person’s risk of suicide?

Many factors impact someone’s risk for suicide. Some occupations or jobs have higher rates of suicide than others.2-4

What factors are linked to increased risk of suicide for some occupations?

Among the factors thought to contribute to increased risk of suicide by occupation:

  • Job factors–such as low job security, low pay and job stress4-6
  • Access to lethal means–the ability to obtain things like medications and firearms4, 7

Other factors that can influence the link between occupation and suicide include: gender, socioeconomic status, economic climate, and societal norms.4-5, 7-8

What are ways reduce and prevent suicide in the workplace?

CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices provides several recommendations to reduce and prevent suicide. Many of these recommendations are relevant to the workplace, including:

  • Increasing access to health and behavioral health care services
  • Reducing access to lethal means among persons at risk of suicide
  • Changing organizational polices and culture to promote a protective environment for workers, such as:
    • Promoting prosocial behavior among employees (e.g., asking for help)
    • Assessing and referring employees to helping services (e.g., mental health, substance abuse treatment, financial counseling)
    • Developing crisis response plans for post-suicide events
  • NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographic database of occupational safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.
  • NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Suicide are based on keywords related to suicide.

  1. CDC [2020]. Leading cause of death by age group. National Vital Statistics System, National Center for Health Statistics, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, WISQARS™.
  2. CDC [2018]. Suicide rates by major occupational group–17 states, 2012 and 2015. MMWR 67(45):1253–1260.
  3. Tomasi SE, Fechter-Leggett ED, Edwards NT, Reddish AD, Crosby AE, Nett RJ [2019]. Suicide among veterinarians in the United States from 1979 through 2015. J of Am Vet Med Ass. 254(1):104-112.
  4. Milner A, Spittal MJ, Pirkis J, LaMontagne AD [2013]. Suicide by occupation: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry 203(6):409-416.
  5. Milner A, Witt K, LaMontagne AD, Niedhammer I [2018]. Psychosocial job stressors and suicidality: A meta-analysis and systematic review. Occup Environ Med 75(4):245-253.
  6. Choi BK [2018]. Job strain, long work hours, and suicidal ideation in US workers: A longitudinal study. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 91(7):865-875.
  7. Milner A, Witt K, Maheen H, LaMontagne AD [2017]. Access to means of suicide, occupation and the risk of suicide: A national study over 12 years of coronial data. BMC Psychiatry 17:125
  8. Milner A, Page K, Spencer-Thomas S, LaMontagne AD [2015]. Workplace suicide prevention: a systematic review of published and unpublished activities. Health Promot Int 30(1):29-37.