The paradox of gender in suicide

Women are more prone to mental health problems such as depression, which often serves as a prelude to suicide. According to a study done by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, the overall rates for psychological disorders tend to be 20-40% higher for women than men in Western societies. And a 2007 study by the Health and Social Care Information Centre of UK revealed women (19%) are more likely than men (14%) to consider taking their own life. Furthermore, 7% of women and 4% of men had attempted to kill themselves at some point in their lives.

However, men are more successful with their suicide attempts than women, even if they try to kill themselves using the same method.


Male suicide: a silent worldwide epidemic

Worldwide figures reveal men are three or four times more likely to commit suicide than women. The numbers do not lie:

  • In the United Kingdom: 4,590 of the 5,981 people aged 15 above who committed suicide in 2012 were males. The rest were females.
  • From Ireland’s National Office for Suicide Prevention: Of the 487 people who killed themselves in 2013, 391 were males and 78 were females. The discrepancy in death rates was reflected in subsequent figures for 2014 and 2015.
  • From India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB): In 2014, close to 60,000 married men took their own lives, compared to 27,000 married women. In the same year, 1,400 widowers (and 1,300 widows) and 550 divorced men (and 410 divorced women) committed suicide.
  • From Canada’s National Center for Health Statistics: In 2012 to 2013, there were 20.4 death rates by suicide per 100,000 among men aged 18 to 24 in five racial and ethnic groups, whereas for young women in all groups, it was 4.8.
  • United States deaths by suicide, data from Statista: In 2014, the rate of suicide per 100,000 for males was 20.7 compared to only 5.8 for females.

The trends are similar in many other countries worldwide, especially in Lithuania (49.5 suicide rates per 100,000 for males against 8.4 for women), Belarus (43 for men compared to 7.7 for women), and South Korea (37.2 for men and 16.2 for women).


Why men are more likely to kill themselves?

Suicide is linked to psychological health problems like depression and anxiety, but researchers are puzzled as to why more men, especially older men, than women die by suicide. Three factors can be attributed to the likelihood of suicide – and of increased chances of successful suicide attempts – among men:

  • Men within the age groups of 45-64 and 65+tend to live miserably. As they reach the lowest levels of the masculinity, they experience the highest suicide rates. Once they reach late life, men begin to regard suicide as a masculine response to the indignities of aging.
  • Men are more likely to use violent methods in their suicide attempts, such as firearms and suffocations that ensure death. Women prefer poisoning. The difference of methods of suicide by gender matters: it was found out that men are more intent than women on dying, and they are also reported to have significantly higher level of suicidal intent.
  • Men are more likely to be more impulsive (tending to act without properly considering the consequences of their action) than women, thus putting them at risk of rash, spur-of-the-moment suicidal behavior. Suicides spurred by impulsivity are likely to occur with alcohol use. Alcohol problems are common in male suicides as men are more likely than women to have consumed alcohol hours before suicide attempts.

Non-government organizations, religious groups and governments should look into the matter of male suicides, which has become a global phenomenon. This should concern them as more cases have been underreported, especially in developing countries and certain racial and ethnic groups around the world.

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