Male Sex, Age and Occupation Linked To Workplace Suicide

Dr. Hope M. Tiesman MSPH, PhD CDC, Interview with:
Dr. Hope M. Tiesman MSPH, PhD

CDC, Atlanta

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Tiesman: The authors regularly monitor non-occupational injury trends, including the recent and significant increase in suicide rates. This finding led the authors to consider how these non-occupational trends impacted the workplace. We used data for two large national surveillance systems.  We obtained data on workplace suicides from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injury (CFOI) which compiles data on all fatal work-related injuries in the US.  We obtained data on non-workplace suicides from the CDC’s Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System or WISQARS. WISQARS data are compiled using national death certificate data.  From here we calculated suicide rates and compared trends across workplace and non-workplace suicides as well as examined the socio-demographics and occupational characteristics of those who chose suicide in the workplace.

Several important findings to highlight.  Across the 8-yr timeframe, we found that workplace suicide rates remained relatively stable, even somewhat decreasing that it is until 2007 when a large and significant jump in rates was found.  This was in contrast with non-workplace suicide rates which increased over the entire study period.  Men had signifıcantly higher workplace suicide rates compared to women and generally, as age increased, so did workplace suicide rates.  Those aged between 65 and 74 years had the highest suicide rate of all workers which was also a bit different from non-workplace suicide rates.  Finally, we found that those in protective service occupations, such as police and firefighters, had the highest workplace suicide rates, followed closely by those in farming/fishing/and forestry occupations.  These occupations have been associated with higher overall suicide rates in prior studies.  A somewhat novel finding was that those in automotive maintenance and repair occupations also had significantly higher workplace suicide rates.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Tiesman: Mental health and occupational professionals could use this information in several ways.

First, mental health providers should be aware of the impact that occupation can have on an individual’s suicide risk for suicide, especially among the high risk occupations highlighted here.

Second, mental health professionals who work in the area of prevention could consider the workplace as a potential site for suicide prevention purposes – especially among the occupations at highest risk for workplace suicide.

Finally, occupational safety and health professionals should recognize that non-work factors can and do contribute to safety and health issues on the job.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Tiesman: There is no specific follow-up work currently underway; however, the authors are forming partnerships with the National Action Alliance For Suicide Prevention and the National Institute of Mental Health to explore future research interests and opportunities.


“Suicide in U.S. Workplaces, 2003–2010; A Comparison With Non-Workplace Suicides,” by Hope M. Tiesman, PhD, Srinivas Konda, MPH, Dan Hartley, EdD, Cammie Chaumont Menéndez, PhD, Marilyn Ridenour, MPH, and Scott Hendricks, MPH.
American Journal Preventive Medicine June 2015 Volume 48, Issue 6, Pages 674–682

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Dr. Hope M. Tiesman MSPH, PhD, & CDC, Atlanta (2015). Male Sex, Age and Occupation Linked To Workplace Suicide

Last Updated on October 24, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD