Suicide Among Emergency and Protective Service Workers: A Retrospective Mortality Study in Australia, 2001 to 2012

Work. 2017;57(2):281-287. doi: 10.3233/WOR-172554.

Abstract

Background: Emergency and protective services personnel (e.g., police, ambulance, fire-fighters, defence, prison and security officers) report elevated levels of job stress and health problems. While population-level research is lacking, there has been some research suggesting suicide rates may be elevated in emergency and protective services.

Objectives: This paper compares suicide rates between emergency and protective services occupational groups over a 12-year period (2001-2012) in Australia.

Method: Labour force data was obtained from the 2006 Australian Census. Suicide data was obtained from the National Coroners Information System (NCIS). Negative binomial regression was used to estimate the association between suicide and employment as an emergency or protective service worker (including prison and security officers) over the period 2001-2012, as compared to all other occupations. Information on suicide method was extracted from the NCIS.

Results: The age-adjusted suicide rate across all emergency and protective service workers was 22.4 (95% CI 19.5 to 25.2) per 100,000 in males and 7.8 in females (95% CI 4.6 to 11.00), compared to 15.5 per 100,000 (95% CI 15.2 to 15.9) for males and 3.4 (95% CI 3.2 to 3.6) for females in other occupations. The highest risk by subgroup was observed among those employed in the defence force, prison officers, and ambulance personnel. The major method of death for all occupational groups was hanging.

Conclusions: Our results clearly highlight the need for suicide prevention among emergency and protective service occupations.

Keywords: Intentional self-harm; ambulance; emergency service worker; fire-fighter; military; police.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Allied Health Personnel
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cause of Death
  • Emergency Responders / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*