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Occupation-specific suicide risk in England: 2011–2015

  • Ben Windsor-Shellard (a1) and David Gunnell (a2)

Previous research has documented marked occupational differences in suicide risk, but these estimates are 10 years old and based on potentially biased risk assessments.


To investigate occupation-specific suicide mortality in England, 2011–2015.


Estimation of indirectly standardised mortality rates for occupations/occupational groups based on national data.


Among males the highest risks were seen in low-skilled occupations, particularly construction workers (standardised mortality ratio [SMR] 369, 95% CI 333–409); low-skilled workers comprised 17% (1784/10 688) of all male suicides (SMR 144, 95% CI 137–151). High risks were also seen among skilled trade occupations (SMR 135 95% CI 130–139; 29% of male suicides). There was no evidence of increased risk among some occupations previously causing concern: male healthcare professionals and farmers. Among females the highest risks were seen in artists (SMR 399, 95% CI 244–616) and bar staff (SMR 182, 95% CI 123–260); nurses also had an increased risk (SMR 123, 95% CI 104–145). People in creative occupations and the entertainment industry – artists (both genders), musicians (males) and actors (males) – were at increased risk, although the absolute numbers of deaths in these occupations were low. In males (SMR 192, 95% CI 165–221) and females (SMR 170, 95% CI 149–194), care workers were at increased risk and had a considerable number of suicide deaths.


Specific contributors to suicide in high-risk occupations should be identified and measures – such as workplace-based interventions – put in place to mitigate this risk. The construction industry seems to be an important target for preventive interventions.

Declaration of interest


Corresponding author
Correspondence: Ben Windsor-Shellard, Health Analysis and Life Events, Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG, UK. Email:
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Occupation-specific suicide risk in England: 2011–2015

  • Ben Windsor-Shellard (a1) and David Gunnell (a2)
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