Stressful, High-Skill and High-Stakes: Jobs with High Suicide Rates


What do an electrician, a lawyer, and a real estate agent have in common? Here’s the grim truth: all three of these rank amongst the professions with the highest rates of suicide.

Although numerous studies have been completed on this topic, with varied results, certain professions have consistently been found to lead these lists.

Here are the top seven, per

1. Physicians

2. Dentists

3. Finance workers

4. Lawyers

5. Police officers.

6. Real estate agents.

7. Electricians

The common thread running through all of these professions, from finance workers to police officers, is the high level of stress that workers are exposed to on a daily basis. Beyond that, however, an unlimited number of variables – from workplace dangers and accessibility to potentially harmful resources, to demanding clients and uncertain paychecks – affects each profession uniquely.

Interestingly enough, many of the professions that top this list are also some of the ones that require the most schooling.

Take physicians, for example: physicians are 1.87 times more likely to commit suicide than non-physicians. Furthermore, reports that female physicians “are 2.78 times more likely to kill themselves than the average female worker.”

If this rate seems alarmingly high, that’s because it is; physicians frequently appear at the top of suicide-prone professions. They are also four times more likely to turn to drugs to execute suicides than are non-physicians.

Notably, several studies have offered explanations for these particularly high suicide rates amongst physicians. Joshua D. Foster and Ilan Shrira of Psychology Today suggest that physicians are more likely to succeed at their suicide attempts because they know what drugs to turn to, and in what dosages; they also have relatively easy access to these very drugs.

Although no difference in suicide rates was noted between male physicians and female physicians, gender, along with race, does play a role in other professions’ suicide levels.

Perhaps in no field is this more apparent than amongst police officers: white male officers don’t rank as having high suicide rates, but white females and black males are frequently found on these very lists. In fact, black male police officers have higher rates of suicide than black males in any other field; for white women, it has been shown to be the third riskiest profession for suicide.

Similarly, while white male electricians have higher-than-average suicide rates, black male electricians have even higher rates of suicide – they are 1.31 and 1.78 times more likely, respectively, to commit suicide than non-electricians.

However surprising it may seem, real estate agents are actually exposed to a similar risk to the one faced by police officers: both officers and real estate agents are required to interact with complete strangers, often in close quarters.

Real estate agents are 1.38 times more likely to commit suicide than those outside their field, a fact that can be traced back to, in part, the combined stress of declining house values, uncertain paychecks, and having to meet strangers in empty houses.

A report by indicated that some jobs expose professionals to higher levels of stress earlier in their careers. In fact, the report stated that a shocking 40 percent of law students suffer from depression by the time they graduate law school, before even starting their careers.

Adding on to high-stress nature of lawyers’ jobs are additional stressers like demanding clients and long hours.

In finance, suicide rates have been shown to have a direct correlation to the state of the economy: when the economy is bad, suicide rates peak; when the economy is faring well, the mental health of many finance workers sees a related increase as well. Altogether, however, finance workers’ suicide rates hover at 1.51 times that of the non-finance worker.


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