Research Suicide — 07 November 2013

Australia appears to be the happy country for doctors with a notable absence of a suicide problem within the local profession, a Queensland study shows.

Compared with their overseas counterparts, Australian doctors and nurses are less likely to take their own lives, with male doctors in particular showing relatively fewer signs of unmanaged psychological distress. bigstockphoto_Stethoscope_130135

The study, by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, also found that male doctors had a significantly lower suicide risk than the general Australian population, while the risk for female doctors was about the same.

This is in contrast to previous studies that found female doctors in particular tended to have an elevated suicide risk compared to the general population.

“Based on this study, we are the only country where suicide risk is lower in medical doctors than the general population,” said lead author Dr Kairi Kolves (PhD). “We conclude, of course that this is rather positive news.”

The study analysed suicide cases and rates in those aged 25-64 years using the Queensland Suicide Register covering 1990 to 2007.

Teachers were used as a reference category. There were 6564 suicides during that time. A total of 27 suicides by doctors,

59 by nurses and 85 by teachers were recorded.

Poisoning was the frequently used suicide method among doctors and nurses, while hanging was the most common cause of death for the ‘others’.

Carbon monoxide poisoning by car exhaust gas was the most common suicide method employed by teachers.

The findings indicated that medical doctors and nurses sought treatment for psychiatric disorders more than education professionals and the general population, the authors suggested.

This article first appeared on 6 Minutes on 6 November, 2013.


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