In the news, a study was released showing suicide risk by one’s occupation. For women, artists, designers and those who work in media are at highest risk (for men this is #2). The was story only gave a snippet of the results. I happen to be a female illustrator who has struggled with this in the past. Does this study say what it is that connects these jobs to a higher suicide risk? Do creatives have more mh problems in general or is it another reason? Many creatives work freelance in the gig economy which can equal less job security and no benefits. Did the study or other studies find any correlations?Study on Suicide Risk by Occupation
Study on Suicide Risk by Occupation
Not having reviewed the study, it’s difficult to comment on its findings. Not all studies are created equal. Some are better than others. For instance, studies that utilize randomization are better than studies that use cross-sectional designs. Randomization decreases the likelihood of extraneous variables hiding the true causal relationship in the study. Cross-sectional designs however, don’t have those same protections.
The number of study participants also matters in research. For instance, there was recently a study about the Netflix television show 13 Reasons Why. The study had 87 participants. The participants were mostly young women presenting to a psychiatric emergency department with suicide-related concerns. The purpose of the study was to determine if the aforementioned television show increased the suicidal behavior of individuals who were already suicidal. The fact that only 87 participants were involved in the study significantly limits its generalizability. In other words, when so few individuals participate in the study, we can’t assume that the results would also be true among people in the overall population. In addition, the fact that the participants were already at a higher risk for suicide, significantly hinders the researcher’s ability to conclude that the television show caused their suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
According to the World Health Organization, construction workers, and those who tend to work in isolation and who face unsteady employment, have the highest rate of suicide. High rates were also seen in carpenters, miners, electricians, mechanics, and those working in stressful work environments, who struggle with work-life imbalance, and who lack of access to healthcare services. Some occupations expose workers to fumes or pesticides that may contribute to their depressive symptoms.
You also mentioned the “gig economy.” Essentially, the phase refers to unstable jobs that have increasingly been a feature of the United States economy. These jobs are typically short-term, contract-oriented, and lack benefits such as health insurance or retirement plans. One statistic indicates that 47% of millennial’s work these types of jobs. There may be a link between the unstable nature of these occupations and suicidality.
I could write a great deal more about suicide but that would be beyond the scope of this forum. The bottom line is this: why someone chooses to end their life is a complex matter. The circumstances of an individual’s life matters. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you should consult a mental health professional. Don’t put off receiving treatment if you need it. Perhaps a line from this recent Economist article sums it up the best: “…a suicide postponed is likely a suicide prevented.”
Dr. Kristina Randle