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Suicide in welfare support workers: a retrospective mortality study in Australia 2001–2016
  1. Humaira Maheen,
  2. Stefanie Dimov,
  3. Matthew J Spittal,
  4. Tania L King
  1. Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Humaira Maheen, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC 3053, Australia; humaira.maheen{at}


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

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  • Contributors HM designed the study, conducted the analysis and developed the first draft of manuscript and edited the paper according to coauthors’ suggestions. MJS contributed to data analysis, whereas, SD and TK and MJS provided their technical input to improve the final manuscript. All authors contributed to the final draft of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Justice Human Research Ethics Committee (reference, CF/15/13534) and the Human Ethics Advisory Group, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.