Health and Science

US suicide rate rises 40% over 17 years, with blue-collar workers at highest risk, CDC finds

Key Points
  • Adults working in construction are at a significantly higher risk for suicide, a new CDC study says. 
  • The study used data from 20,975 deaths recorded in the 2016 National Violent Death Reporting system. 
  • In 2017, nearly 38,000 people of working age died by suicide in the U.S., which represents a 40% rate increase in less than two decades, according to the CDC.

The suicide rate has surged 40% in the U.S. over less than two decades, with blue-collar workers — particularly mining, oilfield, construction and auto-repair workers — at a significantly higher risk, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC analyzed suicide rates by industry and occupational groups by gender using data from the 32 states that participated in the 2016 National Violent Death Reporting system. Researchers examined the suicide rates by profession for 20,975 people between the ages of 16 and 64. For both men and women, construction and "extraction" workers, mostly in the mining or oil and gas fields, had the highest suicide rates, the CDC found in research published Thursday.

"Previous research indicates suicide risk is associated with low-skilled work, lower education, lower absolute and relative socioeconomic status, work-related access to lethal means, and job stress, including poor supervisory and colleague support, low job control, and job insecurity, the CDC wrote.

The total suicide rate among all men was 27.4 individuals per 100,000 people, but the rate among those in the construction field was 49.4 per 100,000. For women, the suicide rate for the total population studied was 7.7 per 100,000 individuals. The suicide rate for women in construction and extraction, however, was 25.5 per 100,000 individuals — the highest among any profession.

Among industry groups, mining, quarrying and oil and gas workers had the highest suicide rate for men at 54.2 per 100,000.

In 2017, nearly 38,000 people between the ages of 16 and 64 died by suicide in the U.S., according to the CDC. The overall suicide rate rose by 40% from 12.9 per 100,000 people in 2000 to 18 per 100,000 people in 2017. In response to the rising rate, the public health institute launched the industry and occupation study to help inform suicide prevention.

"These findings highlight opportunities for targeted prevention strategies and further investigation of work-related factors that might increase risk of suicide," the study's authors wrote in a discussion note.