Purpose Rates of suicide are elevated among veterinary surgeons in several countries, yet little is known about contributory factors. We have conducted a systematic review of studies investigating suicidal behaviour and psychosocial problems in veterinary surgeons. Methods A systematic search of the international research literature was performed in May 2008. Data from 52 studies of non-fatal suicidal behaviour, mental health difficulties, stress and burnout, occupational difficulties, and psychological characteristics of veterinary surgeons were extracted by two independent reviewers and analysed. Studies were rated for quality and greater emphasis placed on findings from higher quality studies. Results The majority of studies were of stress and occupational difficulties experienced by veterinary surgeons. Occupational stressors included managerial aspects of the job, long working hours, heavy workload, poor work-life balance, difficult client relations, and performing euthanasia. Few studies investigated suicidal behaviour or mental health difficulties in the profession. Some studies suggested that young and female veterinarians are at greatest risk of negative outcomes such as suicidal thoughts, mental health difficulties, and job dissatisfaction. Conclusions The review highlights the difficulties faced by veterinary surgeons that may contribute to poor mental wellbeing and suicidal behaviour. Future research might include further examination of the influence of euthanasia on attitudes towards suicide and more direct examination of the impact that occupational risk factors might have on suicidal behaviour. Suggestions about the reviewÕs implications for suicide prevention in this group are also made.
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