Children more at risk of attempting suicide if father is in both unskilled and stressful job

NOTE: This press release has been updated on March 22.

The children of men with stressful jobs, particularly jobs in which they have low control over their work and low psychological demand, are at higher risk of attempting suicide than others. A study published today in the open access journal BMC Public Health also shows that boys are at higher risk of committing suicide if their father had a job with low psychological demand during the first 16 years of the childís life.

In a study funded by the Canadian Population Health Initiative, Aleck Ostry, Clyde Hertzman, Stefania Maggi and colleagues from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, along with colleagues from other institutions in Canada and the UK studied approximately 30,000 men who were working or had worked at sawmills in British Columbia and their children. Ostry et al. collected data on the menís history of employment, their physical work conditions and their psychosocial work conditions Ė these include the level of responsibility, the control over their everyday tasks and their time constraints, which govern the level of stress they experience in their job. Ostry et al. obtained data on attempted and completed suicides among the children using a unique resource, the British Columbia Linked Health Database.

The results of the study show that 250 of the approximately 20,000 children in the study attempted or committed suicide over the 15- year period from 1985 to 2001. Fatherís work conditions while their children were less than 16 years of age had an impact on attempted and completed suicides among their children. In particular, the female children of men with low control over their work may be at higher risk for attempted suicide during childhood and young adulthood than female children of fathers in jobs with more control. The sons of fathers working in jobs with low psychological demand may be at particular risk for completed suicides.

These analyses are unusually powerful because the researchers were able to screen out the effect of fatherís mental health status on their childrenís risk of attempting or completing suicide.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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