Suicide compared to other causes of mortality in physicians

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2005 Apr;35(2):146-53. doi: 10.1521/suli.


Physicians frequently are early adopters of healthy behaviors based on their knowledge and economic resources. The mortality patterns of physicians in the United States, particularly suicide, have not been rigorously described for over a decade. Previous studies have shown lower all-cause mortality among physicians yet reported conflicting results about cause-specific mortality such as suicide. In this study, we compared all-cause and cause-specific mortality in a sample of physicians to the age-gender matched general U.S. population from 1948 through 1998. We also compared the mortality experience across medical specialties. The risk of all-cause mortality was 56% lower than expected in men, and 26% lower in women, compared to the general population. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were markedly lower for diseases strongly linked to smoking, e.g., cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer. Suicide was the only cause of death where risk was greater than the general population. Overall, we found that physicians are at substantially lower risk of dying compared to the general population for all causes of death except suicide. The findings for suicide are strikingly different than other causes of death and should provide impetus for new research on the mental health of physicians.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cause of Death*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Male
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician Impairment
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reference Values
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / mortality
  • Risk Assessment
  • Specialization
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States