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Can Fam Physician. 1980 Jun;26:837-44.

Suicide in doctors and wives of doctors.


This paper re-examines the widespread belief that doctors have a proneness for suicide greater than the general population. The Standardized Mortality Ratio for male physicians is 335 and for single women doctors 257. Doctors' wives have an even greater risk: their SMR is 458. These rates for doctors are higher than for most other professional groups (except pharmacists) and the rate for doctors' wives far exceeds that for wives of other professionals. The intrinsic causes of the physician's high occupational mortality include his knowledge of toxicology and ready access to lethal drugs, so that impulsive suicide is more often successful. Professional stress and overwork, particularly the unrelenting responsibility for decisions upon which the lives of others may depend, have been inculpated. These stresses interact with the decline in the doctors' self-respect and with a personality that is prestige-oriented and independent. Some physicians turn in their frustration to alcohol/and or drugs, accelerating the process of deterioration. The high suicide rate in doctors' wives appears to be the result of unrequited needs for caring and dependency which the doctors' career demands and personality deny them.

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