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NEW YORK (AP) – Farmers, lumberjacks and fishermen have the highest suicide rate in the US, while librarians and educators have the lowest, according to a large study that found enormous differences across occupations.
The study didn’t explore the reasons behind the differences, but researchers found the highest suicide rates in manual laborers who work in isolation and face unsteady employment. High rates were also seen in carpenters, miners, electricians and people who work in construction. Mechanics were close behind.
Dentists, doctors and other health care professionals had an 80 percent lower suicide rate than the farmers, fishermen and lumberjacks.
Thursday’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is perhaps the largest US study to compare suicide rates among occupations. But it is not comprehensive. It only covers 17 states, looking at about 12,300 of the more than 40,000 suicide deaths reported in the entire nation in 2012.
Because of the limited data, they could only calculate suicide rates for broad occupation categories, but not for specific jobs. The categories, which sometimes seem to group professions that have little to do with each other, like athletes and artists, are based on federal classifications used for collecting jobs-related data.
So it’s not clear what the suicide rate is just for farmers. Or for mathematicians. Or journalists.
Suicide is the nation’s 10th leading cause of death. Public attention often focuses on teens and college students, but the highest numbers and rates are in middle-aged adults. Suicide is far more common in males, and the rankings largely reflect the male suicide rates for each group.
The highest female suicide rate was seen in the category that includes police, firefighters and corrections officers.
The second highest rate for women was in the legal profession.
It’s not the first time a suicide problem has been noted for some of the jobs. In the 1980s, media reports detailed high suicide rates in Midwestern farmers. That was attributed to a tough economy and farmers use of pesticides that scientists have theorized may cause symptoms of depression.
Among the list of 22 occupational groups, farmers, fishermen, lumberjacks suffered by far the highest overall suicide rate, at 85 per 100,000.
A construction and mine workers were a distant second, at 53 per 100,000, followed by mechanics at 48 per 100,000.
The worst rate among white-collar workers was 32 suicides per 100,000, suffered by architects and engineers, in fifth place overall.
Lawyers were in the middle of the rankings, in 11th place, followed by doctors and dentists, while religious clergy and social workers were in 16th place.
The least suicide-prone workers were teachers and librarians, with a rate of just 8 per 100,000. A similar rate was recorded by office and administrative workers.