Male construction workers at highest risk of suicide

  • 20 Mar 2017

Male construction professionals are at the greatest risk of committing suicide, according to a report released by the Office of National Statistics.

The analysis, based on deaths registered in England between 2011 and 2015, has found that the risk of suicide among low-skilled male labourers, particularly those working in construction roles, was three times higher than the male national average.

Commissioned by Public Health England, the study looked at the 18,998 suicides in men and women aged between 20 and 64 that took place between 2011 and 2015. The research shows that certain occupations are at a higher risk of suicide than others.

Male suicides in each major occupational group, deaths registered in England, 2011 to 2015

Male suicides in each major occupational group, deaths registered in England, 2011 to 2015. (Source: Office of National Statistics)

Specifically, the highest risk of suicide is among those working among building finishing trades: plasterers and painters and decorators had more than double the risk of suicide than the male national average.

Previous studies (Agerbo et al 2007) suggest that certain occupations may have a higher risk due to features of the job such as low pay, job security and the wider socio-economic characteristics of individuals employed in a particular sector.

Mates in Mind

The latest ONS figures add weight to the new Mates in Mind mental health programme, set up by the British Safety Council and Health in Construction Leadership Group, established to raise awareness of poor mental health in the construction industry.

The programme aims to establish an industry-wide approach to tackling mental health issues within the industry. 

According to Mates in Mind, people in the construction sector are ten times more likely to die by suicide than from on-site accidents.

Commenting on the ONS report, the PHE chief executive Duncan Selfie said: “People who die from suicide are usually not in contact with health services, and often push through in silence as their ability to cope deteriorates. With more than two-thirds of adults in employment, the workplace offers an opportunity to reach people who need extra support.

I urge all employers, large or small, public or private sector to treat mental health as seriously as physical health. Early action can stop any employees reaching a desperate stage. Simple actions can make a huge difference – talking with a manager or colleague can help people get the support they need, and ultimately save lives.”

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