Physicians Face Elevated Suicide Risk

From Drug Benefit Trends®

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Dec 23 – Physicians, especially female physicians, face a higher suicide risk than that of the general population, according to a report in the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.By Will Boggs, MD

“The motivation to conduct this particular research came from a series of suicides of clinician colleagues at my hospital as well as a more recent suicide here at Harvard Medical School,” Dr. Eva S. Schernhammer from Channing Laboratory in Boston told Reuters Health.

Dr. Schernhammer and Dr. Graham A. Colditz conducted a quantitative meta-analysis of 25 independent studies of physician suicide rates, including 24 investigating male physicians and 13 investigating female physicians.

Suicide rates were 41% higher in male physicians than in the general population, the authors report. Studies with low quality scores had slightly lower suicide rate ratios.

The suicide rate among female physicians was more than double that in the general population, the report indicates. Suicide rate ratios were slightly higher in studies with low quality scores.

“After assessment of the methodologic aspects of the studies,” the authors conclude, “the results from our meta-analysis confirm previously reported physicians’ suicide rate ratios and suggest that the actual suicide rate ratio of female physicians is substantially higher than that of male physicians.”

“Even only modestly elevated suicide rates among physicians will hopefully remind them that their profession poses an extraordinary amount of stress on them and encourage them to seek help with coping, if needed,” Dr. Schernhammer said.

“To enhance discrete and confidential access to psychotherapeutic assistance, programs similar to the Canadian assessment and referral service for stressed and impaired physicians can further improve support systems for physicians,” the investigators write.

“Given that many studies were conducted more than a generation ago,” the researchers add, “risk profiles and causal associations may have changed and warrant further investigation.”

Am J Psychiatry 2004;161:2295-2302.


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