Watch CBS News

Suicide in the workplace: Which professions are high risk?


There's no way around it. Work is stressful. Most people go through points where their job is so taxing it feels as if it's consuming their entire emotional life. In some instances this situation can end in tragedy with an at-work suicide.

In the U.S., suicide rates have increased considerably in recent years. Though workplace suicide trends have not been well documented, a new study aims to compare suicide rates in the workplace to those outside the job.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that between 2003 and 2010, 1,719 people in the U.S. committed suicide at work. During that same period, a total of 207,500 committed suicide outside the workplace. Overall, workplace suicide declined until 2007 and then began to increase. The researchers say that men are statistically more likely to take their life while on the job; men between the ages of 65 and 74 are at highest risk.

"One hypothesis that may explain the increased suicide rate among specific occupations is the availability and access to lethal means, such as drugs for medical doctors and firearms for law enforcement officers," the researchers write in their study. "Workplace stressors and economic factors have also been found to be linked with suicide in these occupations."

The study also observed that the global economic crisis in 2008 has impacted suicide rates for the worse. The national average workplace suicide rate for the years 2003 to 2010 was 1.5 per 1,000,000 workers.

Click through to see which occupations have the highest at-work suicide rates.

Landscaping, cleaning and maintenance workers


Janitors, cleaners, landscaping workers and grounds keepers were more likely than average to commit suicide, according to the report. Suicide in this occupational group was 2.0 per 1,000,000 workers during the years covered by the study, 2003 to 2010.

Business and management


Though there's plenty of research about high rates of depression among office workers, it turns out this professional group actually has a lower rate of suicide compared with some other occupations. However, it's still above the national average. The study found a rate of 2.0 at-work suicides per 1,000,000 people among workers in the business world.

Transportation and material moving occupations


Truck drivers, movers and other employees who do a lot of heavy lifting also have a higher-than-average workplace suicide rate, with 2.4 cases per 1,000,000 workers.

Installation, maintenance and repair workers


The population of people working in installation, automotive repair and other types of repair were found to have suicide rates more than twice the national rate.

The study authors say higher exposure to chemical solvents on the job, a common risk for auto repair workers, could cause serious neurotoxic effects and lead to memory impairment, irritability, depression, emotional instability and even brain damage. More thorough cleaning of facilities and use of personal protective gear could help protect workers in these fields.

This industry has a suicide rate of 3.3 per 1,000,000 workers.

Farming, fishing and forestry


Farmers, fishermen and forestry workers spend their days in the great outdoors, but are also subjected to a number of pressures that may raise their risk for suicide. Factors include financial loss; physical stress and illness due to the taxing nature of the work; social isolation; difficult work-home balance; and limited access to mental health services. They may also suffer depression from chronic pesticide exposure.

This study, as well as others, show that firearms and hanging are the two leading methods of suicide for people in this occupation.

There are approximately 5.1 workplace suicides per 1,000,000 workers in these industries -- well above the national average of 1.5.

Protective service occupations


People serving a community's need for protective services -- including firefighters, police and other law enforcement officials, private detectives and investigators, as well as animal control workers -- were found to have the highest rates of suicide in the workplace: 5.3 per 1,000,000 workers.

The researchers say this may be due primarily to easy access to firearms on the job; a total of 84 percent of suicide in these professions involved guns.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.