Work environment and recent suicidal thoughts among male university hospital physicians in Sweden and Italy: the health and organization among university hospital physicians in Europe (HOUPE) study

Gend Med. 2011 Aug;8(4):269-79. doi: 10.1016/j.genm.2011.05.009. Epub 2011 Jul 2.


Background: Male and female physicians are at elevated suicide risk. The work environment has become a focus of attention as a possible contributor to this risk. The potential association between work environment and suicidal thoughts has been examined among female physicians in several countries, and significant findings have been reported.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the role of the work environment in relation to suicidal thoughts among male university hospital physicians in 2 European countries.

Methods: Cross-sectional multivariate analysis was performed to identify significant associations between work-related factors and suicide risk among male physicians from the Health and Organization among University Hospital Physicians in Europe (HOUPE) study. The dependent variable was termed recent suicidal thoughts, which includes having thought about suicide and/or having thought about specific ways to commit suicide within the previous year. Adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and CIs are reported.

Results: Of the 456 Swedish (56%) and 241 Italian (39%) male physicians who participated, 12% of the physicians from each country reported affirmatively regarding recent suicidal thoughts. Degrading work experiences were associated with recent suicidal thoughts for the Swedish and Italian physicians (OR = 2.1; 95% CI, 1.01-4.5; OR = 3.3; 95% CI, 1.3-8.0, respectively). Role conflict was associated with recent suicidal thoughts among the Swedish physicians (OR = 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.2). Support at work when difficulties arose appeared to be protective for the Swedish physicians (OR = 0.7; 95% CI, 0.5-0.96). Italian physicians with little control over working conditions had an increased risk of recent suicidal thoughts, whereas confidential discussions about work experiences appeared to be protective (OR = 0.6; 95% CI, 0.4-0.9).

Conclusion: Attention should be paid to the work environment as it relates to suicide risk among male university hospital physicians, particularly to bolstering social support and preventing harassment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Environment
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Workplace / psychology*
  • Workplace / statistics & numerical data