Each year CareerCast publishes its list of the most stressful jobs (http://www.careercast.com/jobs-rated/most-stressful-jobs-2016) according to the Jobs Rated report. And they are as follows.
Jobs Rated Report defines stress in terms of 11 factors: travel, deadlines, working in the public eye, competitiveness, physical demands, environmental conditions, hazards encountered, the life of oneself or others at risk, meeting and interacting with customers and/or the public, and the potential for job growth.
- Enlisted Military Personnel
- Airline Pilot
- Police Officer
- Event Coordinator
- Public Relations Executive
- Corporate Executive (senior)
- Newspaper Reporter
- Taxi Driver
What I noticed however, was that the jobs that were rated as the most stressful were not the jobs with the highest suicide rates. Below is a rank ordered list of the tops ten jobs with the highest suicide rates. The only occupation that is on both lists is Police Officer.
- Police Officer
- Financial Services Broker (Stock Broker)
- Real Estate Agent
Okay, okay, I know the two list are different and the variables used to rank jobs based on stress level don’t map onto the variables that correlate with suicide. That’s obvious. But why not?
Why is there such a huge disconnect between the way these two constructs are defined?
Would’t it make sense that those who report the most stress would also be at the most risk for suicide; or wouldn’t one expect at least some overlap?
What is going on here?
The short answer is “I don’t really know.” However, based on my experience as a clinician and researcher and the current research literature, I am willing to go out on a limb and give you an educated guess.
- The disconnect is simply due to a lack of agreement on the operational definitions used to generate the two lists.
- The stressful jobs list is basically a job satisfaction measure and as the author points out, “employment satisfaction ratings do not necessarily predict whether someone is going to commit suicide” Bushansky, A. 2015). Point well made…
…but I am still deeply unsettled by this.
While I completely understand that the lack of correlation between the two lists can be adequately explained by differences in measurement, it has prompted me to think about what the heck we are doing as a society. What are we doing as the professionals who are educated, trained and charged with helping people who are hurting? Do others just read this stuff and go on with their day never wondering why those who kill themselves are NOT on the list because they are NOT telling anyone that their job is stressful?
So, I pulled from the list the professions with which I have the most experience. They are as follows: Airline Pilots, Corporate Executives (senior), Physicians, Stock Brokers, and Lawyers.
Then I thought about each of these jobs and the things I know about them through my research, my clinical work and the current research literature to see if I could find common threads. I did.
However, before I continue, I would really like to know what others think about this. When you think about Airline Pilots, Senior Corporate Executives, Physicians, Stock Brokers and Lawyers, what comes to mind?
What are the similarities between these people and the jobs they hold?
Why do Airline Pilots and Senior Corporate Executives report high levels of job stress but do not have high rates of suicide?
Why do Physicians, Stock Brokers and Lawyers fail to report high levels of job related stress yet have such high rates of suicide?
What are your biases?
What in the world is going on with that statistic about active military personnel? Given that the DoD consistently reports active duty suicides rates up to 48% higher than the average population, it seems impossible that “active duty military” is listed at the top of the stress list and missing completely from the suicide list.
I will publish Part two of this article within two weeks and will include any comments and feedback. I welcome your thinking. If you are uncomfortable posting your comments here, please message me through my Linkedin account: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorie-hood-6315a445
I am reaching out as a professional who is concerned about the biases toward those who are hurting, depressed, addicted, suicidal, and the ways those biases keep people from seeking the help they need. More importantly, I am reaching out as a human being who is as vulnerable as the next person to the stressors brought on by my job and career. If I ever show up on a list of occupations that put me at risk for suicide and am not showing up on a list that says my occupation is stressful, I hope somebody is paying close enough attention to question it.