Although previous studies have consistently demonstrated that physicians are more likely than non-physicians to experience work-related stressors prior to suicide, the specific nature of these stressors remains unknown. The current study aimed to better characterize job-related problems prior to physician suicide.
The study utilized a mixed methods approach combining thematic analysis and natural language processing to develop themes representing death investigation narratives of 200 physician suicides with implicated job problems in the National Violent Death Reporting System database between 2003 and 2018.
Through thematic analysis, six overarching themes were identified: incapacity to work due to deterioration of physical health, substance use jeopardizing employment, interaction between mental health and work-related issues, relationship conflict affecting work, legal problems leading to work-related stress, and increased financial stress. Natural language processing analysis confirmed five of these themes and elucidated important subthemes.
This is the first known study that integrated thematic analysis and natural language processing to characterize work-related stressors preceding physician suicide. The findings highlight the importance of bolstering systemic support for physicians experiencing job problems associated with their physical and mental health, substance use, relationships, legal matters, and finances in suicide prevention efforts.