Suicide and professions

Dext, my personal guess would be that the profession with the highest suicide rate is “retired”.
** EDIT BY CKDextHavn on 7/11/99: link is **
[Note: This message has been edited by CKDextHavn]

I’m too tired to look it up, but I thought it was “student.”


Best I can do, checking my trusty World Almanac, are these figures:
Suicides by Age, Race, and Sex, 1995.
All races, both sexes.
1-14 years, 337.
15-24 years, 4784.
25-34 years, 6292.
35-44 years, 6467.
45-54 years, 4532.
55-64 years, 2804.
65-74 years, 2960.
75-84 years, 2311.
85+ years, 785.

Looking back at US Population by Age, Sex, and Household, 1990, we see that there are 71,987,755 people in the US between the ages of 5 and 24. Let’s assume they’re all students. 5123 people under 24 committed suicide. There are 31,241,831 people in the US over 65. Let’s assume they’re all retired. 6056 people over 65 committed suicide.

I know I am using statistics from two different years and that my assumptions are reasonable but wrong. I know a lot of people stop being students at 16 or 18 or 22, and that a lot of people either retire well before 65 or continue working into their 70s and even 80s. Still, I think it’s clear that the proportion of old people who commit suicide is a lot higher than the proportion of young people.

This isn’t an issue that I am going to expend large quantities of energy fretting over, so I will concede your point. On the other hand, as I go out the door, I am going to point out that for seniors to have the highest numbers, you have to include a 35+ year range of people, while for youth I need only include a ten year range (ignoring the very small number of suicides under age 15).


In the initial comments, I discarded “student” as not an occupation in the context of the initial question. I similarly discarded “retired,” without even bothering to comment, as not being responsive to the question. The question was very clearly directed at occupations… psychiatrists, cops, prison guards, etc.

The question of suicide by age, or by gender, or by height, is a different question.

And, Tom, Lawrence’s statistics were presented as raw numbers, but it’s better to look at the percentages:
(a) Student: 5123/71,987,755 = 0.007%
(b) Retired: 6055/31,241,831 = 0.019%
that neutralizes the numbers and the different age bracket.

the classification of student as covering ages 5 to 24 is too broad; suicides are extremely rare in the under 15 age brackets.
If you look at 15 to 24 age bracket, or 15 to 20, you get a much much higher proportion.

“The prettiest sight in this fine pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges.”

I see that the 25-44 age range had the highest number of suicides for 1995. Right now, I’m 33 going on 34, so that means I’m in my Prime Suicide Years! Woo hoo!

(I doubt there are more people in, say, the 25-34 range than in the 15-24 range, since everybody has to live through childhood to make it to adulthood. But if people started dropping like flies after age 44, that might explain the lower suicide rates in the higher age brackets.)

<< But if people started dropping like flies after age 44, that might explain the lower suicide rates in the higher age brackets. >>

As any actuary can tell you, mortality rates do take a great leap at age 40. Hardly “dropping like flies”, but still… For instance, the 1983 Group Annuity Mortality Table (used by insurance companies; yes, it’s a little old, it’s the one I have handy without going into the office) shows probable number of deaths per 10,000 people at each age:
20 - 3.77
25 - 4.63
30 - 6.07
35 - 8.59
40 - 12.37
45 - 21.83
50 - 39.09

Note the big jump (over 75% increase) from age 40 to 45, compared to the 30% to 40% increase in the lower ages.

Dext? I have nothing but pure respect for both the witty tone and deadly accuracy of your missives. But, I gotta tell ya, pal, you have a 1983 ACTUARIAL TABLE sitting around the homestead?
I am frightened. Does it follow, then, that you have several copies of “Guiness Book of World Records” holding up the end table?
In Humor and Grovelling Respect,

  • If you wanna kiss the sky, you’d better learn how to kneel "

Typer, I should just leave your comment as she stands. But the answer is no, not at home, I have the actuarial tables in my office. I used to be an actuary, until I took a twelve-step program.

My father worked for an insurance company. One freebie that got handed out was one of those little squeeze flashlights with the inscription, “Betcha Will Rogers never met an actuary!”

Amazingly enough, we seem to have two, since december is also a self-announced actuary. Poor chap.

[[Let’s assume they’re all retired. 6056 people over 65 committed suicide.]]

How are they coming up with these numbers? Cause of death listed on death certificates? If so, this is highly inaccurate. A person dying of AIDS, for example is sometimes listed on the death certificate as dying of “respiratory failure,” or that kind of thing. I am guessing that many more people in the over- 65 age group commit suicide, and I would even venture to say that many of these deaths are quietly assisted by physicians, who humanely give lethal doses of painkillers to those with painful, terminal illnesses. This kind of suicide, of course, is qualitatively different from a teenager who kills himself because his girlfriend left him or because he’s gay and not getting any family support, and I think it’s important to look at when making comparisons.

To address the original question, what profession is most prone to suicide; I had always heard it was dentists. I guess it’s because they’re always snicker down in the mouth.

Just shoot me.

President of the Vernon Dent fan club.

Nah. Pork butchers–they’re always commiting sooey-cide.
Now, don’t let this happen again.


Nah, it is Short-Order Cooks. They cannot handle being just a Flash In The Pan.

The mortuary is immensely popular. People are just dying to get in there.

Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Tip your waitstaff!