Physician Suicide Rate Higher Than General Public

The stress of being a physician is taking its toll, with the suicide rate for physicians higher than the general public, according to a new study of data. Suicide victims who were physicians were three times more likely to have had a job problem.

The stress of being a physician has shown to be too much, according to a new study, which revealed that the suicide rate for physicians is higher than the general public. The stresses of the job are an important factor, according to the study in the General Hospital Psychiatry journal.

The study used data from the United States National Death Reporting System to evaluate demographics, mental health variables, recent stressors and suicide methods among physician versus non-physician suicide victims in 17 states. Of the 31,636 suicide victims, 203 were identified as physicians.

According to the authors, the victim having a known mental health disorder or job problem which contributed to the suicide significantly predicted the victim having been a physician. Having a job problem was 3.12 times more likely among physicians.

For both physicians and the general public, firearms were the most common method of suicide (48% physicians compared to 54% non-physicians). However, the second most common method for physicians was poisoning (23.5%) compared to asphyxia, which includes hanging (22%) for non-physicians.

“Physicians were significantly more likely than non-physicians to have antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and barbiturates present on toxicology testing but not antidepressants,” according to the authors.

Postmortem toxicology data revealed that physicians had low rates of medication treatment despite the fact that mental illness is an important comorbidity for physicians.

“Inadequate treatment and increased problems related to job stress may be potentially modifiable risk factors to reduce suicidal death among physicians,” the authors wrote.