U.K. Veterinarians at Quadrupled Risk for Suicide

FRIDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers from England are reporting a surprising fact about veterinarians in that country: They're four times more likely than other people to commit suicide, and twice as likely as other professionals who work in health care.

The reasons for the much higher suicide risk aren't clear, although theories exist that veterinarians may kill themselves more often because they're routinely involved in the euthanasia of pets or slaughter of farm animals, which may affect their attitudes towards life and death. They may also be influenced by colleagues who commit suicide.

In the study, David Bartram of the Mental Health Group at the University of Southampton School of Medicine in England, and colleagues reported that other possible explanations include a tendency of those in the profession towards perfectionism and neuroticism, which can boost the risk of suicide, and the long hours and high stress of being a vet. Also, the fact that veterinarians often work in private practices and may be socially isolated makes them more prone to depression, the researchers write.

Poisoning using potentially lethal drugs, to which they have easy access, was an especially common method of suicide for vets, the study authors noted. Male veterinarians were almost four times as likely to kill themselves through poisoning as other male suicide victims, and female vets were twice as likely to kill themselves this way as other female suicide victims.

The study findings are published in the March 27 issue of the journal Veterinary Record.

-- Randy Dotinga

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SOURCE: BMJ, news release, March 26, 2010