US health care workers face higher suicide risk than other workers, study finds


A new study published in the medical journal JAMA has found that US health care workers are at a greater risk of suicide than non–health care workers, especially among registered nurses, health care support workers, and health technicians. The study used a nationally representative cohort of approximately 1.84 million employed adults observed from 2008 through 2019 and controlled for potentially confounding sociodemographic characteristics.

Higher suicide rates among health care workers

The study estimated that the annual suicide rate in the US among health care workers alone was about 14 per 100,000 person-years compared with about 13 per 100,000 person-years among non–health care workers. However, the suicide risk varied significantly across different types of health care workers. Compared to non–health care workers, registered nurses, health care support workers, and health technicians had markedly higher gender- and age-standardized suicide rates, while health care–diagnosticians/treating practitioners had lower standardized suicide rates than non–health care workers.

The study also found that the suicide hazard ratios (HRs) for health care workers compared with non–health care workers were higher for women than for men. The HRs for women were 1.32 for registered nurses, 1.81 for health care support workers, and 1.65 for health technicians, while the HRs for men were 1.10, 1.46, and 1.31, respectively. The HRs for health care–diagnosticians/treating practitioners were lower for both women and men, at 0.72 and 0.77, respectively.

Possible explanations and implications

The study authors suggested several possible explanations for the higher suicide risk among some health care workers, such as heavy workloads, emotional demands, exposure to trauma and death, lack of autonomy and control, and stigma and barriers to seeking mental health care. They also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated these factors and increased the stress and burnout among health care workers.

US health care workers face higher suicide

The study authors called for more research and interventions to address the mental health needs of health care workers and prevent suicide. They recommended that health care organizations implement comprehensive suicide prevention programs that include screening, referral, treatment, and follow-up for at-risk employees. They also urged health care workers to seek help if they experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and to support their colleagues who may be struggling.

The study is one of the first to compare the suicide risks of different types of health care workers in the US using a large and representative sample. It highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing the mental health challenges that health care workers face, especially during the ongoing pandemic.


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