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Research Trends

Characteristics of Police Officer Suicides in the Federal Austrian Police Corps

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1027/0227-5910/a000033

Background: Suicide rates among police officers may be high because of strong occupational stressors. Aims: This study examined the suicide rate and suicide characteristics among police officers in the Federal Austrian Police Force. Methods: All suicides among policemen during the period 1996–2006 were analyzed retrospectively on the basis of personalized police record files from all Austrian police departments. Information on sex, age, marital status, children, region, method and place of suicide, suicide notes, position, and length of service was extracted from these files. The general Austrian population, adjusted for sex and age composition, served as the comparison group. Results: The suicide rate among male police officers was 30.2/100,000 (SD 11.0), which was comparable to the suicide rate in the adjusted general population (30.5/100,000; SD 2.9). The female police officer suicide rate was 1.8/100,000, while the corresponding suicide rate of the adjusted female general population was 12.5/100,000 (SD 1.7). Firearms were the most frequent suicide method (77.8%), and the incidence of suicide notes was 30.8%. Conclusions: Suicide rates among police officers seem comparable to those of the age-adjusted general population. Given the healthy-worker effect, these results still suggest an increased risk of suicide among police officers. These findings should stimulate further research on stressors and risk factors for suicide among officers and should also encourage departments to increase awareness regarding suicidal signs among officers.