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Patterns of suicide by occupation in England and Wales: 2001–2005

  • Howard Meltzer (a1), Clare Griffiths (a2), Anita Brock (a2), Cleo Rooney (a2) and Rachel Jenkins (a3)...

Suicide rates vary by occupation but this relationship has not been frequently studied


To identify the occupations with significantly high suicide rates in England and Wales in 2001–2005 and to compare these with rates from previous decades


Mortality data from death registrations in England and Wales over the calendar years 2001–2005 were used to calculate proportional mortality ratios (PMRs) and standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) for both men and women aged 20–64 years by their occupation


Among men, in 2001–2005, construction workers, and plant and machine operatives had the greatest number of suicides. The highest PMRs were for health professionals (PMR=164) and agricultural workers (PMR=133). Among women, administrative and secretarial workers had the greatest number of suicides yet the highest PMRs were found for health (PMR=232), and sport and fitness (PMR=244) occupations


Excess mortality from suicide remains in some occupational groups. The apparent changes in suicide patterns merits further exploration, for example examining the prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation in medical practitioners, dentists, veterinarians, agricultural workers, librarians and construction workers

Corresponding author
Professor Howard Meltzer, Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 6TP, UK. Email:
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Patterns of suicide by occupation in England and Wales: 2001–2005

  • Howard Meltzer (a1), Clare Griffiths (a2), Anita Brock (a2), Cleo Rooney (a2) and Rachel Jenkins (a3)...
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Suicide among veterinary surgeons

David J. Bartram MRCVS, Research Assistant
14 July 2008

Meltzer et al (1) report an elevated mortality by suicide among health professionals, especially female veterinary surgeons (PMR=609, 95% CI 198-1422), and call for investigations into depression and suicidal ideation in veterinarians. Their observations are in keeping with the results of previous studies which consistently report an elevated suicide risk among veterinarians(2-4). There has been much speculation regarding possible mechanisms underlying increased suicide risk in the profession, but little empirical research. We have devised a hypothetical model to explain the elevated risk among veterinarians (5) and tests of this model are under way.

In late 2007, questionnaires were mailed to a random stratified sample of 3200 veterinary surgeons practising in the UK. The questionnaireincluded a number of published validated scales and a series of questions on stressors more specific to the profession, using a comprehensive approach with measures of positive mental health and work-home interactionand identifying sources of pleasure in veterinary work, in addition to indicators of psychological morbidity. The questionnaire was returned by 1796 participants, a response rate of 56.1%. The demographic and occupational profile of respondents and estimation of non-response bias allow some confidence in the reliability and generalisability of the studyfindings to the wider profession.

Compared to the general population, the sample reported higher levelsof anxiety and depressive symptoms; higher 12-month prevalence of suicidalthoughts; less favourable psychosocial working conditions, especially in regard to demands and managerial support; lower levels of positive mental well-being; and higher levels of negative work-home interaction. They drink more frequently than the general population, but consume less on a typical drinking day and a have a prevalence of daily and weekly binge-drinking that is similar to the general population.

This cross-sectional evidence that veterinary surgeons report higher levels of psychological distress suggests their higher suicide rate is notentirely associated with access to and knowledge of means of harm.

David J. Bartram MRCVS

David S. Baldwin FRCPsych

Clinical Neuroscience Division, School of Medicine, University of Southampton, RSH Hospital, Southampton SO14 0YG


1. Meltzer H, Griffiths C, Brock A, Rooney C, Jenkins R. Patterns of suicide by occupation in England and Wales: 2001-2005. Br J Psychiatry 2008; 193, 73-76

2. Kelly S, Bunting J. Trends in suicide in England and Wales, 1982-96. Popul Trends 1998;(92):29-41.

3. Charlton J. Trends and patterns in suicide in England and Wales. Int J Epidemiol 1995; 24 Suppl 1:S45-S52.

4. Mellanby RJ. Incidence of suicide in the veterinary profession in England and Wales. Vet Rec 2005; 157(14):415-417.

5. Bartram DJ, Baldwin DS. Veterinary surgeons and suicide: influences, opportunities and research directions. Vet Rec 2008; 162(2):36-40.
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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