If you've ever suffered from the mental and emotional turmoil related to long-term involuntary unemployment, you may think it's a low point of your life. But being employed can be just as stressful, so overwhelming that some workers choose to end their lives. Some occupations, it turns out, can make life harder, and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the statistics that prove it.
Looking at data from 17 states for the year 2015, CDC researchers found that the occupational group with the highest suicide rate for men was "construction and extraction," which includes construction workers, carpenters, masons and the like: The rate was 53.2 for every 100,000 people. That number is startling in comparison to the American suicide rate in general (13.42 suicides per 100,000 people).
For women, the job category with the highest suicide rate was "arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media," with a rate of 15.6 per 100,000. That's actually the same category that saw the largest leap (47 percent) in male suicides from 2012 to 2015, and includes jobs related to work like illustration, news reporting, tattooing and even professional athletes. During that same time period, the most dramatic increase in female suicides occurred in the "food preparation and serving related categories," the grouping that includes jobs like baristas, chefs and restaurant managers.
The job categories with the lowest suicide rates were "education, training and library" for men and "installation, maintenance and repair" for women. The CDC released this report on Nov. 16, 2018.
American suicide rates in general have been increasing at a pace that has mental health experts on alert. Since the turn of this century, suicides in the working age population (between 16 and 64) have risen by 34 percent, and each year more than 44,000 people end their lives, typically with firearms. The CDC sees the workplace — where most adults spend their days — as a starting point for identifying suicide trends in hopes of finding ways of reversing them.
The CDC didn't pinpoint exact causes for the reasons these categories were at the top of the list, writing that "identifying the specific role that occupational factors might play in suicide risk is complicated; both work (e.g., little job control or job insecurity) and nonwork (e.g., relationship conflict) factors are associated with psychological distress and suicide. The relationship between occupation and suicide might be confounded by access to lethal means on the job and socioeconomic factors such as lower income and education."
Nevertheless, the CDC noted that the workplace is an underutilized place for suicide prevention. People could be trained there to recognize the signs of suicide and refer others for support. Improving working conditions and reducing stress on the job might also lower suicide attempts.
If you or someone you know is showing signs of suicidal thinking or behavior, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help at 1-800-273-8255.