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Suicide in welfare support workers: a retrospective mortality study in Australia 2001–2016


Objectives Employees working in the welfare and healthcare industry have poorer mental health than other occupational groups; however, there has been little examination of suicide among this group. In this study, we examined suicide rates among welfare support workers and compared them to other occupations in Australia.

Methods We used data from the National Coroners Information System to obtain suicide deaths between the years 2001 and 2016. Using the Australian standard population from 2001 and Census data from 2006, 2011 and 2016, we calculated age-standardised suicide rates and rate ratios to compare suicide rates across different occupational groups.

Results Overall, the age-standardised suicide rate of welfare support workers was 8.6 per 100 000 people. The gender-stratified results show that male welfare support workers have a high suicide rate (23.8 per 100 000 people) which is similar to male social workers and nurses (25.4 per 100 000). After adjusting for age and year of death, both males (rate ratio 1.48, 95% CI 1.23 to 1.78) and female welfare support workers (rate ratio 1.49, 95% CI 1.20 to 1.86) have higher suicide rate ratios compared with the reference group (excluding occupations from the comparison groups).

Conclusion The age-standardised suicide rates of male welfare support workers are comparable to occupations which have been identified as high-risk occupations for suicide. Both female and male welfare support workers are at elevated risk of suicide compared with other occupations. Further research is required to understand the drivers of the elevated risk in this group.

  • public health
  • mental Health

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party as it is not publically available.

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