Worst job ever?

Unclear why exactly:), Michael Froomkin asks the question:

What would be the most unattractive job in the regular economy? I’m not talking about the objectively least-well paid or statistically most dangerous, or most unpopular (car salesman?). I mean, what job would you least like to have. No fair saying subsistence farmer in Darfur either — I mean in the US (or other developed economy).

His response: toll booth attendant.

As I note in the comments to his post, I won’t answer, because I prefer to think about aspects of jobs I like. His post reminded me, however, of having heard once that toll booth operators have the highest suicide rate among various occupations. I decided it was time to check on this. There doesn’t seem to be much out there to support the claim. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of methodological challenges to studying the relationship between occupations and suicide rates. This piece does a good job of mentioning several of them from lack of occupational information on death certificates to numbers being too small by category for comparison. From what I’ve read after a quick search, it’s fair to say the rumors I have heard about the above relationship are pretty much unsubstantiated.

Long before becoming a card-carrying sociologist, I was interested in suicide rates.* This may have had to do with the fact that I grew up in a country with one of the highest rates of suicide. According to 2003 figures, Hungary is #6 on the list (interesting group – bottom right corner when you click through), but in the 1980s when I was growing up there, it may have been #1 judging from the figures for the other countries high on the list since some of their rates seem to have gone up while Hungary’s declined considerably [pdf] in the last couple of decades. I doubt there are many Hungarians who don’t know of people in their immediate circles who either committed or at least attempted suicide (I knew several before graduating from high school), but perhaps this is true elsewhere, too.

All of which is obviously not to say that worst job ever equals suicide. It’s just a connection I made after reading about Michael’s candidate for the distinction.

[*] Yeah, yeah, maybe I became a sociologist, because I find questios of this sort intriguing.

2 Responses to “Worst job ever?”

  1. Chris Says:

    Worst job for me: telemarketer. I think that I’d go postal in an environment like that. I’d hate the repetition of the task and I couldn’t stand that I would be annoying just about everyone that I called.

  2. Biliana Says:

    Interesting, I didn’t know that male suicide rates are so much higher. If anything, I would have thought it would be the opposite. Though the wikipedia article does mention that attempted suicides might be higher in women.