Pharmacists at greater risk of suicide than others

Researchers have shown through a study that pharmacists at greater risk of suicide than general population. The findings of the study shows that suicide rate among pharmacists are higher among pharmacists compared to the general population, at an approximate rate of 20 per 100,000 pharmacists compared to 12 per 100,000 in the general population.

The figures are based on data from 2003 through 2018, collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System. Study authors expect numbers to be even higher in subsequent years due to the additional stressors of the pandemic, and are currently evaluating more recent data.

The study identified the most common means of suicide in this population, with 49.8 percent of cases involving firearms, 29.4 percent involving poisoning and 13 percent involving suffocation. The use of firearms was similar between pharmacists and the general population, but poisoning via benzodiazepines, antidepressants and opioids was more frequent among pharmacists.

The data also provide some insight into contributing factors, including a history of mental illness and a high prevalence of job problems. Job problems are the most common feature of suicides across health care professions.

For pharmacists, Lee said job problems reflect significant changes in the industry in recent years, with more pharmacists employed by hospitals and chain retailers than small, private pharmacies more common in the past. The responsibilities of a pharmacist have also grown considerably, with larger volumes of pharmaceuticals to dispense and increasing demands to administer vaccines and other health care services.

Future research will further evaluate which job problems have the biggest impact and how the field can better respond. In the meantime, Lee advised pharmacists to encourage help-seeking behaviors amongst themselves and their colleagues.

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