According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate among the working age population in the United States increased 34 percent between 2000–2016, from a rate of 12.9 per 100,000 to 17.3 per 100,000. When broken down into occupational groups, construction and extraction was the category with the highest male suicide rate through that time period.
Within the construction and extraction group, the male suicide rate grew to as much as 53.2 per 100,000 in 2015. For females, the group with the highest suicide rate was arts, design, entertainment, sports and media. The CDC report examined the occupational data of 22,053 people in 17 states between the ages of 16–64 who died by suicide.
The CDC stressed that suicide prevention in the workplace is critical because it is where many adults spend most of their time. It suggests strategies such as employee assistance and wellness programs, encouraging workers to seek out mental health screenings, reducing the stigma around mental health issues, and more.
“Increasing suicide rates in the U.S. are a concerning trend that represent a tragedy for families and communities and impact the American workforce,” said Deb Houry, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Knowing who is at greater risk for suicide can help save lives through focused prevention efforts.”
The CDC also said that, while this occupational data is helpful in identifying who is at risk, it should not be used to rush to conclusions in terms of why these suicides occur.
“The etiology of suicide is multifactorial, and 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 CDC states. “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. Previous studies have employed a range of methodologies to study the proposed association between suicide and occupation and, at times, have arrived at different conclusions. For example, although this analysis aligns with another that found high suicide rates among construction workers in Colorado, a meta-analysis using an international occupational classification system found persons in other less-skilled occupations, such as laborers and cleaners, to be at higher risk.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK.