Sept. 6 (UPI) -- Veterinarians, veterinary technicians and technologists take their own lives at an alarmingly higher rate than those in other professions, new research shows.
The risk for committing suicide is 2.4 times for female veterinarians and 1.6 times for male veterinarians compared to people in the general population, according to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
"Based on the research findings, it will be important to ensure suicide prevention activities are aimed at veterinary technicians as well as veterinarians," researchers wrote in the study. "In addition, the results indicate the higher likelihood for suicide among veterinarians compared with the general population might be attributable to pentobarbital access."
In most of these deaths, the veterinarians consumed an animal euthanasia drug called pentobarbital, researchers report.
The study analyzed the suicide deaths of 197 veterinary professionals and 5 veterinary students using data from the National Violent Death Reporting System. The researchers also included undetermined deaths which could have been misidentified as suicides.
The suicide rate for male veterinary technicians and technologists was five times higher for men and 2.3 times higher for women than the average U.S. citizen. Many of those deaths were due to opioid suicide overdoses.
However, fewer than 20 male suicide deaths could be confirmed for male technicians and technologists, leading researchers to caution the reliability of that statistic based on the small number.
Also, suicides among male and female veterinarians mirrored the general population when researchers excluded suicide by pentobarbital.
"It is also important to consider whether increasing administrative controls for other substances that could be used for suicide, such as opioids, should be pursued in tandem with increased administrative controls for pentobarbital," the researchers wrote.