Friday, July 18, 2008

Busting a myth that's been bugging me

Maybe you've heard this before, maybe not, but the myth I'm addressing is this: Dentists have the highest rate of suicide.

This has been brought to my attention a few times since becoming a dental student. It's usually somebody trying to make smalltalk, but many who've brought it up have done so in a way that led me to believe that they really think it's true.

So, I set out to do some investigating today. I had intentions of writing this post with well-referenced credible links but didn't actually find any official list. Upon typing dentists and suicide in the good old google, I found no references to support this claim, although I did learn quite a bit. Here's the summary of today's web surfing:

  • The topic is somewhat unclear because suicides usually aren't classified by profession. There is a plethora of data regarding race, age, and gender because those things show up on death certificates and can easily be compiled.
  • The rate for health care professionals as a whole is elevated.
  • A possible explanation of this is that health care professionals generally live healthier lifestyles and are less likely to die from other causes.
  • Another explanation could be the stress that comes with being a "professional".
  • Medical Doctors (MD's) have a higher rate of suicide than their Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) counterparts. Most sources credit white male physicians as having the highest suicide rate, although the females in the profession aren't far behind - which is unusual.
  • Psychiatrists also have a higher rate of suicide than dentists, although they have their own urban legend to deal with regarding their "highest suicide rate".
  • One study had sheepherders and wool workers topping the list.
So there you have it. Don't believe this when you hear it unless they have a source more credible than Benji's Blog©. If they do, please send it my way.

I guess this concludes my suicide note. Ha!

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