Year: 2019 Source: Medical Journal of Australia. (2016). 205 (6), 260-265. doi: 10.5694/mja15.01044 SIEC No: 20190649

Objectives: To report age-standardised rates and methods of suicide by health professionals, and to compare these with suicide rates for other occupations.

Study design: Retrospective mortality study.

Setting, participants: All intentional self-harm cases recorded by the National Coronial Information System during the period 2001–2012 were initially included. Cases were excluded if the person was unemployed at the time of death, if their employment status was unknown or occupational information was missing, or if they were under 20 years of age at the time of death. Suicide rates were calculated using Australian Bureau of Statistics population-level data from the 2006 census.

Main outcome measures: Suicide rates and method of suicide by occupational group.

Results: Suicide rates for female health professionals were higher than for women in other occupations (medical practitioners: incidence rate ratio [IRR], 2.52; 95% CI, 1.55–4.09; P < 0.001; nurses and midwives: IRR, 2.65; 95% CI, 2.22–3.15; P < 0.001). Suicide rates for male medical practitioners were not significantly higher than for other occupations, but the suicide rate for male nurses and midwives was significantly higher than for men working outside the health professions (IRR, 1.50; 95% CI 1.12–2.01; P = 0.006). The suicide rate for health professionals with ready access to prescription medications was higher than for those in health professions without such access or in non-health professional occupations. The most frequent method of suicide used by health professionals was self-poisoning.

Conclusion: Our results indicate the need for targeted prevention of suicide by health professionals.