Dec. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. veterinarians have had higher rates of suicide than the general population for more than three decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
Veterinarians were about three times as likely as the general population to die by suicide, the CDC said in a statement on its new study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. More specifically, female veterinarians were 3.5 times as likely and male veterinarians were 2.1 times as likely to die by suicide.
The trend of higher suicide rates among veterinarians has stretched back more than three decades, the CDC said in its statement. However, the study is the first to show increased suicide deaths among female veterinarians.
Data show more than 60 percent of 110,531 veterinarians in the United States in 2017.
Since 2000, the rate of female veterinarians who died by suicide has remained stable at 10 percent, but the number of deaths steadily increased, the CDC statement said.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health researchers analyzed death records from 11,620 veterinarians who died from 1979 to 2015 for the study.
"Our findings suggest mortality from suicide among veterinarians has been high for some time - spanning the entire 36-year period we studied," CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D., said. "This study shines a light on a complex issue in this profession. Using this knowledge, we can work together to reduce the number of suicides among veterinarians."
An earlier study by the NIOSH found female veterinarians have a higher prevalence of suicide risk factors such as depression and suicide attempts.
"Veterinarians with certain personality traits who are exposed to unmanaged occupational stressors might be at risk for developing serious psychological distress, depression, and suicidal ideations," the study said. "Other factors likely include financial debt and knowledge and acceptance of euthanasia procedures as well as access to potentially lethal pharmaceutical products."
The study found pharmaceutical poisoning caused 37 percent of suicide deaths by veterinarians, a rate 2.5 times higher than pharmaceutical poisoning among the general U.S. population.
A CDC study released last month showed suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2017, accounting for 1.7 percent of total deaths.