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Increased risk for suicide seen among registered nurses, health technicians, health care support workers versus non-health care workers

Registered nurses, health technicians, and health care support workers have an increased risk for suicide compared with non-health care workers, according to a study published in the Sept. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City, and colleagues conducted a cohort study to estimate the risks for death by suicide among U.S. health care workers using data from a sample of workers from the 2008 American Community Survey linked to death records through Dec. 31, 2019. Age- and sex-standardized suicide rates were estimated for six health care worker groups and non-health care workers.

The researchers found that the annual standardized suicide rates per 100,000 persons were 21.4, 16.0, 15.6, 13.1, 10.1, 7.6, and 12.6, respectively, for health care support workers, registered nurses, health technicians, physicians, social/behavioral health workers, other health care-diagnosing or treating practitioners, and non-health care workers. Compared with non-health care workers, the adjusted hazards of suicide were increased for health care workers overall and for health care support workers, registered nurses, and health technicians, but they were not increased for physicians, social/behavioral health workers, or other health care-diagnosing or treating practitioners.

“As the pandemic has receded, efforts to improve the mental health of health care workers could lose momentum,” the authors write. “The present analysis, which involves the period before the pandemic, underscores mental health risks for health care workers.”

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