Paper: Suicide mortality by occupation in Canada, 1991-2001

Author(s) and Affiliation(s):
Cameron A. Mustard, Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, Ontario
Amber Bielecky, Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, Ontario
Jacob Etches, Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, Ontario
Russell Wilkins, Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario
Michael Tjepkema, Statistics Canada, Toronto, Ontario
Benjamin Amick, Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, Ontario
Peter M. Smith, Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, Ontario
William H. Gnam, Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, Ontario
Kristan J. Aronson, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario
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To describe the association between occupation and risk of suicide among working-age men and women in Canada.


A cohort study of suicide mortality over an 11-year period among a broadly representative 15% sample of the non-institutionalized population of Canada aged 30-69 at cohort inception. Age-standardized mortality rates and rate ratios were calculated for men and women in five categories of skill level and 80 specific occupational groups as well as for persons not occupationally active.


The suicide mortality rate was 20.1/100,000 person years for occupationally-active men (during 9,600,000 person years of follow-up) and 5.3/100,000 person years for occupationally-active women (during 8,100,000 person years of follow up). Among occupationally-active men, elevated rates of suicide mortality were observed for 9 occupational groups and protective effects were observed for 6 occupational groups. Among women, elevated rates of suicide were observed in 4 occupational groups and no protective effects were observed. For men and women, age-standardized suicide mortality rates were inversely related to skill level.


The limited number of associations between occupational groups and suicide risk observed in this study suggests that, with few exceptions, the characteristics of specific occupations do not substantially influence the risk for suicide. There was a moderate gradient in suicide mortality risk relative to occupational skill level. Suicide prevention strategies in occupational settings should continue to emphasize efforts to restrict and limit access to lethal means, one of the few suicide prevention policies with proven effectiveness.