Doctors and nurses 'most likely to commit suicide'

Nurses and doctors are more likely to take their own lives than anyone in Britain, show figures disclosed yesterday.

Nurses and doctors are more likely to take their own lives than anyone in Britain, show figures disclosed yesterday.

The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures, said doctors were almost twice as likely to take their own lives and nurses were at 50 per cent greater risk. But 90 per cent of nurses are female and when compared with the female population, their suicide rate was almost four times the average.

Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat spokesman on health said: "These shocking figures show being a doctor or nurse carries a unique risk of suicide. It is tragic irony that when you commit yourself to saving and caring for the lives of others, you appear to be more likely to take your own life."

A total of 342 nurses committed suicide in the six years to 1998, a rate of 11 per 100,000. Among doctors, 146 took their own lives between 1991 and 1998, a suicide rate of 13.5 per 100,000. The average suicide rate is seven per 100,000 but among women it is three per 100,000. The Liberal Democrats said the figures were based on statistics supplied by the British Medical Association, the UK Central Council for Nursing and Midwifery and the Office for National Statistics.

But the figures were challenged yesterday by an expert at the Office for National Statistics. Sue Kelly, who published a report on suicide by occupational groups in Population Trends in 1998, said doctors and nurses did have high suicide rates but, for nurses, it was not as high as four times the population. "I can't support that at all," she said.

The true suicide rate in the general female population aged over 15 was 5.6 per 100,000, higher than the three per 100,000 cited by the Liberal Democrats. In her study, nurses had a suicide rate 37 per cent above the population between 1991 and 1996. Among doctors, the rate was 47 per cent above the average for male practitioners and almost three times higher (185 per cent) for female practitioners.

The pressures of stress and isolation cause depression and to drive some people to take their lives, but for the medical professions, access to the means of suicide also increases the risk. Farmers, who tend to lead isolated lives and have access to guns, have traditionally had high suicide rates, as have vets with access to drugs.

Health professionals, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, therapists and ward orderlies all have higher than average suicide rates because they work in a stressful environment in which there is ready access to drugs.

Dr Kelly said: "Occupations with high suicide rates are dominated by the medical professions. It is not just access to the means of committing suicide that counts but knowing how to use them."

A survey conducted by Nursing Standard magazine, published yesterday, found 69 per cent of nurses who reported depression blamed work for their illness. A total of 229 nurses completed a questionnaire of whom 80 per cent had had time off work for their illness ranging from two to six months. Nineteen had stopped working.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

    Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence