Veterinarians More Likely To Die From Suicide Than Those With Other Professions

A study conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that veterinarians die by suicide at rates far above the national average.

Vet examining a puppy.
Zivica Kerkez / Shutterstock

A study conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that veterinarians die by suicide at rates far above the national average.

Veterinarians are often considered to have one of the most enjoyable professions out there. When American children consider what they would like to be when they grow up, a vet is a very common response. Vets have the opportunity to spend their days working with pets, the seemingly perfect scenario for those who enjoy animals. However, no profession is without its downfalls. A new study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association shares a startling discovery. Veterinarians are dying from suicide at alarmingly high rates, according to NBC News.

In fact, over the past 30 years, veterinarians showed a much higher risk of death by suicide than the rest of the population. The study examined the records of 11,620 veterinarians who died from 1979 to 2015. They found that female vets were 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than those of other professions. Meanwhile, male vets were 2.1 times to face the same scenario. What about this profession is causing this concerning statistic?

While researchers don’t know the exact reasoning behind these statistics, they believe occupational stress, burnout, and depression are likely to blame. While there is certainly a lot of joy in this profession, veterinarians also have to deal with a lot of loss. They are the ones who have to give families the heartbreaking news of their beloved pets medical condition or put the pet to sleep if the situation calls. Dealing with this on a daily basis is bound to take a toll on anyone.

In addition, veterinary school is very difficult, calling for perfection from its students. “The veterinary school application process commonly selects for perfectionism to meet the rigorous veterinary school academic requirements,” researchers said. “However, perfectionism has been associated with higher risk for developing mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression.”

The alarming statistics have even caught the attention of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is concerned by the easy access to pharmaceuticals used in animal euthanization. Thus, taking one’s life in a relatively painless manner is particularly easy for them.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, feels that more needs to be done to prevent these tragic deaths. “Our findings suggest mortality from suicide among veterinarians has been high for some time — spanning the entire 36-year period we studied,” he said in a statement. This is not to say that all those who enter the veterinary professions are expected to suffer from some sort of mental disorder, rather those who already deal with issues such as depression are at greater risk.