This profession has an alarmingly high suicide rate

Photo: Anne Worner via Flickr

Many of our jobs can be tough but some are most definitely harder than others, especially when dealing with life and death. According to a new study that collected data over a 30 year period, veterinarians are up to 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than members of the general population.

The data looked at the death records of 11,600 veterinarians between 1979 and 2015 and found that 400 died by suicide. And specifically of those 400, 75% worked in companion animal practice.

This study is especially interesting because it shows that women are 3.5 times as likely as the population at large to die from suicide, while male veterinarians are about twice as likely. This shows an increased suicide mortality rate amongst female veterinarians. It should also be noted that animal medicine has seen the biggest jump in percentage points of “female employment composition” (25.1 percentage points) between 2000 and 2016.

So why are these animal doctors having such a rough time? Well, their jobs aren’t easy. The report cited factors including long work hours, work overload, complaints and client expectations. Poor life balance as well as perfectionist tendencies were also mentioned. Veterinarians are also payed less than physicians.

But why suicide specifically? “Veterinarians are trained to view euthanasia as an acceptable method to relieve suffering in animals, which can affect the way veterinarians view human life, including a reduced fear about death, especially among those experiencing suicidal ideation,” the report states.  It found that 37%  of the vets who committed suicide did it with pharmaceuticals that were used to euthanize dogs and cats but most of them used guns.

“This study shines a light on a complex issue in this profession,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD. “Using this knowledge, we can work together to reduce the number of suicides among veterinarians.”