How Common is Male Suicide?

Daniel Liden

Suicide is much more common among males than among females. In spite of the fact that suicide attempts are far more common among females than among males, completed, "successful" suicides are roughly four times as common among men in the United States. Male suicide is more common than female suicide in almost all other regions of the world as well. There are a variety of possible factors that could contribute to the disparity between female and male suicide rates, including chosen suicide methods and societal expectations. Male suicide is particularly common among young adults and the very old; successful suicides are much more common among elderly men.

While female suicide is most common among the middle-aged, male suicide is most common among those over age 75.
While female suicide is most common among the middle-aged, male suicide is most common among those over age 75.

The rates of male suicide in nearly all regions of the world are substantially higher than the rates of female suicide. In Denmark, for example, male suicides are twice as common as female suicides, while in Belarus the rate of male suicides is nearly five times that of female suicides. Notable exceptions are India and China, in which female suicides are slightly more common than male suicides. These similarities and differences in suicide rates suggest that while culture can play a significant role in promoting or discouraging suicide, the prevalence of male suicide is not necessarily a cultural phenomenon limited to only a few areas of the world.

Elderly men who are isolated and depressed may be at particular risk for suicide.
Elderly men who are isolated and depressed may be at particular risk for suicide.

While it is difficult to say precisely what factors lead to the prevalence of male suicide, several plausible possibilities have been suggested. Men, for example, are much more likely than women to commit suicide with firearms, while women are more likely to poison themselves, as through overdosing. Firearm suicides are often immediate, allowing no time for second thoughts or rescue, while overdoses can, in many cases, be treated. Additionally, males are less likely than females to seek help for emotional problems such as depression, so those who suffer from such problems may not have the coping mechanisms they need to lead functional lives.

Men are less likely to seek help for suicidal thoughts, which prevents the possibility of an intervention.
Men are less likely to seek help for suicidal thoughts, which prevents the possibility of an intervention.

While female suicide is most common among middle-aged women, male suicide is most common among men over 75 years of age. Men at this age are much more likely to successfully kill themselves than younger counterparts who attempt suicide. A variety of different emotional stresses likely contribute to the prevalence of male suicide in this age group. Many have lost their close friends and partners, leading to intense feelings of loneliness and depression. They may also suffer from painful and debilitating health problems that greatly restrict their abilities to function normally in day-to-day life.

Suicide is more common among men than among women.
Suicide is more common among men than among women.

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