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Occupation-specific risk estimates for suicide and non-fatal self-harm from a Swedish cohort of male construction workers followed 1987-2018.

OBJECTIVES: While suicidal behaviour has become less prevalent in non-manual workers in recent decades, rates have increased in manual workers. We aimed to identify occupations within the construction industry with excess risk of suicide and non-fatal self-harm.

METHODS: This cohort of Swedish construction workers comprises 389 132 individuals examined 1971-1993 and followed 1987-2018 using national hospital and cause of death registers. More than 200 job titles were merged into 22 occupational groups. For 296 891 men alive in 1987 and active in the construction sector, survival was calculated from baseline to first event of non-fatal self-harm or suicide and censored for emigration, long-term unemployment, disability pension, retirement, death from other causes or end of follow-up. HRs with 95% CIs were obtained from multiple Cox proportional hazard regression.

RESULTS: Overall, 1618 cases of suicide and 4774 events of non-fatal self-harm were registered. Self-harm before baseline was the single largest risk factor for suicide, HR 9.3 (95% CI 7.5 to 11.6). Compared with the overall mean, labourers and rock workers had excess risk for suicide, HR 1.4 (95% CI 1.1 to 1.7) and 1.5 (95% CI 1.0 to 2.3), respectively, while electricians, clerks and foremen had reduced risk. Labourers, concrete workers, sheet metal workers, painters, glaziers and the group 'other construction workers' were at increased risk for non-fatal self-harm. Almost all categories of manual workers were at increased risk for suicidal behaviour relative to clerks and foremen.

CONCLUSIONS: Specific occupations within the construction sector were associated with excess risk for suicidal behaviour. Future studies should identify underlying risk factors to inform tailored interventions.

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