Veterinarians more likely to have suicidal thoughts: study

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Canadian veterinarians, particularly women practitioners, think about suicide more often than the general population and suffer poorer mental health overall, a study by University of Guelph researchers has found.

As an occupation, veterinarians have higher levels of stress, burnout, compassion fatigue, anxiety and depression, and reported more suicidal ideation and lower resilience than Canadians generally, according to the study conducted by researchers in the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).

Published recently in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the study is the first to use psychometric tools to delve into the mental health of Canadian veterinarians and the first to compare results with those of the wider population in Canada or other countries.

The team surveyed all of Canada’s roughly 12,500 veterinarians working in fields ranging from companion animal care to food safety and agricultural support from February through July 2017. About 10 per cent of practitioners, or about 1,400 veterinarians, responded.

Slightly more than three-quarters of respondents identified as women, a key point, said lead author Jennifer Perret, a veterinarian completing her PhD in OVC’s department of population medicine.

About 30 per cent of women veterinarians reported a history of mental illness, compared with almost 27 per cent for men. Just over 15 per cent of women reported mental illness at the time of the survey, compared to just over nine per cent for men.

About 80 per cent of OVC students identify as women.

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