Details on suicide among US physicians: data from the National Violent Death Reporting System

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. Jan-Feb 2013;35(1):45-9. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2012.08.005. Epub 2012 Nov 2.

Abstract

Objective: Physician suicide is an important public health problem as the rate of suicide is higher among physicians than the general population. Unfortunately, few studies have evaluated information about mental health comorbidities and psychosocial stressors which may contribute to physician suicide. We sought to evaluate these factors among physicians versus non-physician suicide victims.

Methods: We used data from the United States National Violent Death Reporting System to evaluate demographics, mental health variables, recent stressors and suicide methods among physician versus non-physician suicide victims in 17 states.

Results: The data set included 31,636 suicide victims of whom 203 were identified as physicians. Multivariable logistic regression found that having a known mental health disorder or a job problem which contributed to the suicide significantly predicted being a physician. Physicians were significantly more likely than non-physicians to have antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and barbiturates present on toxicology testing but not antidepressants.

Conclusions: Mental illness is an important comorbidity for physicians who complete a suicide but postmortem toxicology data shows low rates of medication treatment. Inadequate treatment and increased problems related to job stress may be potentially modifiable risk factors to reduce suicidal death among physicians.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antipsychotic Agents / blood
  • Asphyxia / epidemiology
  • Barbiturates / blood
  • Benzodiazepines / blood
  • Cause of Death
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Drug Overdose / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / epidemiology

Substances

  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines