Suicide trends among Australian construction workers during years 2001–2019
By Humaira Maheen, Yamna Taouk, Anthony D. LaMontagne, Matthew Spittal and Tania King
Published 23 November 2022
The construction industry employs approximately 10% of the Australian population. Construction workers in Australia have been identified as having a higher suicide risk compared to other workers and international evidence has suggested higher suicide rates are among low-skilled constructions workers. A number of job characteristics have been identified that may impact on mental distress and suicidality on construction workers such as limited job control, job insecurity, workplace bullying, under or overemployment, long hours and periods away from home for construction work.
Research and findings
Researchers examined retrospective data by the National Coronial Information System (NCIS) for the time period of 2001-2019 exploring suicide deaths among male construction workers between the ages of 15-64 years, compared to males of other occupations of the same age and time period. Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) was used to support classification of construction workers, and additional population level demographic information was taken from data collected by the Australian Census.
During 2001 to 2019, there were 14,822 suicides in males employed in Australia aged 15–64 years. 3,995 of these suicides were among males employed as construction workers.
The age-standardised suicide rate was 26.6 per 100,000 persons for male construction workers, which was higher than the suicide rate for males employed in other areas at an age standardised rate of 13.2 per 100,000 persons.
The data also found that suicide rates in construction workers declined between 2001-2019.
Decreased rate of suicide within male construction workers during 2001-2019 may be due to improvement of working conditions within the construction industry since the 2000s, coupled with sector specific mental health suicide prevention initiatives.
Despite this decline, the suicide rate of male construction workers in Australia is significantly higher than males employed in other areas. Continued efforts to prioritise mental health and suicide prevention within construction businesses may support a further reduction in suicide rates.