Psychological Medicine

  • Psychological Medicine / Volume 43 / Issue 06 / June 2013, pp 1231-1240
  • Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012 The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence <>. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use..
  • DOI: (About DOI), Published online: 26 October 2012

Original Articles

High-risk occupations for suicide

S. E. Robertsa1 c1, B. Jaremina2 and K. Lloyda1

a1 College of Medicine, Swansea University, Swansea, UK

a2 Clinic of Occupational and Tropical Diseases, Institute of Maritime and Tropical Medicine, Medical University of Gdansk, Gdynia, Poland


Background High occupational suicide rates are often linked to easy occupational access to a method of suicide. This study aimed to compare suicide rates across all occupations in Britain, how they have changed over the past 30 years, and how they may vary by occupational socio-economic group.

Method We used national occupational mortality statistics, census-based occupational populations and death inquiry files (for the years 1979–1980, 1982–1983 and 2001–2005). The main outcome measures were suicide rates per 100 000 population, percentage changes over time in suicide rates, standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) and proportional mortality ratios (PMRs).

Results Several occupations with the highest suicide rates (per 100 000 population) during 1979–1980 and 1982–1983, including veterinarians (ranked first), pharmacists (fourth), dentists (sixth), doctors (tenth) and farmers (thirteenth), have easy occupational access to a method of suicide (pharmaceuticals or guns). By 2001–2005, there had been large significant reductions in suicide rates for each of these occupations, so that none ranked in the top 30 occupations. Occupations with significant increases over time in suicide rates were all manual occupations whereas occupations with suicide rates that decreased were mainly professional or non-manual. Variation in suicide rates that was explained by socio-economic group almost doubled over time from 11.4% in 1979–1980 and 1982–1983 to 20.7% in 2001–2005.

Conclusions Socio-economic forces now seem to be a major determinant of high occupational suicide rates in Britain. As the increases in suicide rates among manual occupations occurred during a period of economic prosperity, carefully targeted suicide prevention initiatives could be beneficial.

(Received February 28 2012)

(Revised July 18 2012)

(Accepted July 24 2012)

(Online publication October 26 2012)

Key words

  • Occupation;
  • socio-economic group;
  • suicide rate


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr S. E. Roberts, School of Medicine, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK. (Email: