BACKGROUND: Suicide mortality among medical practitioners is in many countries significantly higher compared with other professionals and the general population. Differences between male and female physicians are difficult to estimate reliably because previous comparisons are mainly based on crude mortality rates. METHODS: Age-specific mortality rates were calculated for physicians, other professionals and the general population, males and females separately, as well as standardized mortality ratios (SMR) comparing physicians with the other groups. Crude mortality rates were calculated for the specialist groups. RESULTS: The SMR for male (female) physicians was 0.9 (2.4) compared with the general male (female) population and 2.4 (3.7) compared with other male (female) professionals. The SMR between male and female physicians was 1.2 (95% CI 0.9-1.7). CONCLUSIONS: Our results do not support the claim that female physicians have a greater risk of suicide than their male colleagues, but are concordant with previous observations of a higher suicide rate in female physicians compared with the general population and other female professionals.