Psychological Medicine



Suicide rates according to education with a particular focus on physicians in Norway 1960–2000


ERLEND HEM a1c1, TOR HALDORSEN a2, OLAF GJERLØW AASLAND a3, REIDAR TYSSEN a1, PER VAGLUM a1 and ØIVIND EKEBERG a1
a1 Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Department of Behavioural Sciences in Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway
a2 Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Department of Statistics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, and The Cancer Registry of Norway, Oslo, Norway
a3 The Research Institute, The Norwegian Medical Association, and Department of Health Management and Health Economics, University of Oslo, Norway

Article author query
hem e   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
haldorsen t   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gjerlow aasland o   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
tyssen r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
vaglum p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ekeberg o   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 

Abstract

Background. Suicide rates are higher in certain educational groups. The highest rates are generally found in the medical and allied professions, but the empirical evidence for high suicide rates may be questionable. This study compares the rate of suicide among trained physicians, dentists, nurses, police officers and theologians with the rate among other university graduates and the general population according to sex, age and time period.

Method. Census data from 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1990 relating to education were linked to suicide as cause of death data from Statistics Norway, and followed up for the period 1960–2000, comprising 46 and 49 million person-years among men and women respectively.

Results. Physicians still have a higher rate compared with other graduates and the general population, both among males [43·0, 95% confidence interval (CI) 35·3–52·5] and females (26·1, 95% CI 15·1–44·9). Suicide rates increased steeply by age among physicians and other graduates, whereas for non-graduates the rate was highest in the 40–60 years age group. The suicide rate among female nurses was also elevated, whereas police officers seemed to have an intermediate suicide risk. The rate among theologians was low (7·0, 95% CI 2·9–16·9). The suicide rates in the 1990s were significantly lower than in the 1980s.

Conclusions. The high suicide rates among physicians and elderly graduates are of concern. The reasons why graduates are more vulnerable than others when getting older and the low rate among theologians warrant further study.


Correspondence:
c1 Dr Erlend Hem, Department of Behavioural Sciences in Medicine, University of Oslo, PO Box 1111, Blindern, NO-0317 Oslo, Norway. (Email: erlend.hem@basalmed.uio.no)


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