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The suicide rate among the US working age population increased 34 percent during 2000-2016.

A new report published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) examined lifetime occupations of 22,053 people aged 16-64 years old who died by suicide in the 17 states participating in the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) in 2012 and 2015.

In 2012 and 2015, suicide rates were highest among males in the Construction and Extraction occupational group (43.6 and 53.2 per 100,000 civilian noninstitutionalized working persons, respectively) and highest among females in the Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media group (11.7 and 15.6 per 100,000, respectively).

From 2012 to 2015, suicide rates increased most for males in Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media occupations (47 percent) and for females in Food Preparation and Serving Related occupations (54 percent).

“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, M.D., M.P.H., director, CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Knowing who is at greater risk for suicide can help save lives through focused prevention efforts.”

Suicide risk varies by occupation

Top 3 major occupational groups by suicide rate among males in 2015

  1. Construction and Extraction
  2. Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media
  3. Installation, Maintenance, and Repair

Top 3 major occupational groups by suicide rate among females in 2015

  1. Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media
  2. Protective Service
  3. Health Care Support

Among both males and females, the lowest suicide rate in 2015 was observed in Education, Training, and Library occupations.

A closer look at suicide among agricultural workers

This new report replaces a retracted report, “Suicide Rates by Occupational Group — 17 States, 2012,” that included errors in researchers’ manual classification of decedents’ major occupational group (e.g., erroneous coding of farmers to the Farming, Fishing, and Forestry group instead of to the correct Management group). This led to errors in reported suicide numbers and rates by occupational group. More information about the retraction is available on the MMWR website.

Today’s report includes separate analysis of selected agriculture-related detailed groups:

  • For males in the Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Occupational Managers category (a sub-group of the Management major group), the corrected 2012 suicide rate was 44.9 per 100,000 civilian noninstitutionalized working persons and the 2015 suicide rate was 32.2.
  • For males in the Agricultural Workers category (a sub-group of the Farming, Fishing, and Forestry major group), the corrected 2012 suicide rate was 20.4 per 100,000 civilian noninstitutionalized working persons and the 2015 suicide rate was 17.3.

Suicide prevention at work

The workplace is an important place for suicide prevention efforts because the workplace is where many adults spend a great deal of their time.

Workplace suicide prevention strategies include employee assistance programs, workplace wellness programs, technology to provide online mental health screenings and web-based tools, reduction of stigma toward help-seeking and mental illness, and increased awareness of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, 1-800-273-TALK [8255]).

CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policies, Programs, and Practices and the National Violent Death Reporting System can help states and communities prioritize prevention efforts and address persistent upward trends in suicide rates.

As a reminder, media can avoid increasing risk when reporting on suicide by:

  • Following and sharing recommendations available at reportingonsuicide.org (for example, avoiding dramatic headlines or explicit details on suicide methods);
  • Providing information on suicide warning signs and suicide prevention resources; and
  • Sharing stories of hope and healing.
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