Study Examines Why Construction Workers Have Such High Suicide Rates

Study ponders the question of why suicide is so prevalent in construction in order to raise awareness during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

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With 53.2 suicides per 100,000 workers, construction has among the highest suicide rate of any industry, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with deaths by suicide five times higher than all construction deaths combined. But why?

Workwear Guru sought to answer this question by compiling a report featuring insights from key industry experts. “The aim of our study is to educate and encourage all stakeholders to use all the resources available, familiarize themselves with the problem and better implement suicide prevention strategies,” Workwear Guru states.

The report cites CDC data showing a variety of work-related factors that can contributes to suicide risk:

  • low skilled labor
  • lower education
  • relative low socioeconomic status
  • access to lethal means
  • job stress
  • poor supervision and colleague support
  • low job control
  • job insecurity

Though further research is needed, research studies and mental health experts in construction industries show these factors are the primary causes of mental health problems among workers.

In addition, expert cite a high work-pressure environment, work in remote locations, a “tough guy” mentality and opioid dependency as main factors placing construction workers at higher suicide risk, Workwear Guru points out.

“Tough guy mentality where being open about struggles is not valued and may even be looked down upon by some people. Pushing through the pain, both mental and physical, can be a part of this mentality.” notes Dr.Amanda McGough, Ph.D., licensed psychologist at BASE Cognitive Behavioral.

But there are steps employers can take. Greg Sizemore, vice president of health, safety, environment and workforce development, Associated Builders and Contractors, encourages organizations to build a culture of openness in dealing with mental health, suicide and addiction, while Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas advises construction companies to include strategic integration, sustained investment, harm reduction, and policy and training implementation to create a 360° approach to help workers total health.

To learn more about the reasons behind suicide in construction, the costs associated with mental health issues in the workplace and expert-recommended strategies to address and prevent suicide within your workforce, access the full report here.

Information provided by Workwear Guru and edited by Becky Schultz.