Why Are Suicides So High Amongst Men?

While men and women are both increasingly at risk of suicidal thoughts and actions, statistics across the world show that men are more likely to take their own lives.

There are a number of reasons for this noticeable gender discrepancy, including societal pressures and gender roles as well as difficulty expressing emotions and reaching out for help.

Men aged between 45 and 49 had the highest rates of suicide in the UK in 2019, standing at a rate of 25.5 per 100,000 people. [1]

Older men in particular are more prone to suicide if they are dealing with depression, isolation, chronic pain and loneliness.

Men are also more likely to use more violent and lethal methods to commit suicide than women, and as a result, their attempts result in completion more often. [2]

What are the most common risk factors for suicide in men?

Suicidal thoughts and actions can happen to anyone – people of any gender, ethnicity, sexuality and socio-economic status are at risk of taking their own life regardless of how privileged and happy their life may appear.

However, there are a number of risk factors that can increase the chances of a suicide attempt in men.

It’s important to note that it is possible for an individual to develop suicidal thoughts and potentially take action even if they do not display any of the below risk factors.

Common risk factors for suicide in men include:

  • Substance addiction, including alcohol and other drugs
  • A prior history of suicide attempts
  • Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Experiencing bullying, racism or prejudice
  • Being socially isolated and cut off from others
  • A connection to someone who has committed suicide
  • Being unemployed and/or struggling to find a job
  • Suffering the loss of a loved one
  • A history of physical, emotional, mental or sexual abuse
  • Chronic pain, disease and/or disability
  • Experiencing a divorce or other serious relationship breakdown

Many suicide attempts are not completed, usually due to the individual changing their mind or receiving prompt medical treatment. However, if a person has attempted suicide in the past there is a high chance that they will try again.

Why are men more likely to commit suicide?

As the figures show, men are much more likely to commit suicide than women. This is particularly true for middle-aged men as the suicide rates for this age group continue to steadily increase.

Studies have found a number of reasons for this discrepancy, with the most common factors listed below.

1. Bottling up emotions

Men are often encouraged to downplay their emotions and present a tough and independent facade – as children they may be reprimanded for crying or expressing sadness, and this mindset can continue into adulthood.

Similarly, they may be discouraged from seeking help and expected to solve their own problems to avoid showing vulnerability.

This combination of repressed emotions and the inability to seek help can drive men to feelings of suicide as they simply don’t see another way out of their despair and problems. [3]

2. Undiagnosed mental health conditions

It can be difficult for doctors and mental health professionals to pick on feelings of depression and despair in men, as they will often describe their emotions as ‘stress’ rather than anxiety or sadness.

They may share that they are having trouble with work, but fail to mention the underlying toll that the problem is taking on their overall mood and emotions.

This results in many men being misdiagnosed, with depression and other mental health disorders going unnoticed. As a result, they do not receive the appropriate treatment and may be more likely to feel increasingly more hopeless and trapped.

3. Self-medicating with alcohol and drugs

Instead of seeking help, a number of men will instead attempt to self-medicate with alcohol and other addictive substances.

This allows them to temporarily numb their pain while avoiding the problem on a short-term basis, although this behaviour often prevents them from taking steps to address the root cause of the problem.

Long-term, this coping mechanism can spiral into a devastating addiction that causes even more issues. Crippled with shame and guilt, they may feel as though suicide is their only option.

4. Societal pressures

Gender roles have a large role to play in the rate of male suicide, with many men believing that they are ultimately responsible for their partner and children

. This can lead to an increased amount of pressure on themselves to fund their lifestyle and ensure the financial security, potentially leading to overwork and burnout.

In the event of losing their job and become unemployed, a number of men struggle with their sense of identity and believe that they have failed in their role as a provider and protector.

What to do if you are concerned about someone

If you have concerns about a friend, family member or colleague but are unsure how to approach the situation, the following advice can help you to determine whether they appear to be suicidal and the steps that you should take to ensure they receive the help and support that they need.

1. Watch out for the signs

Although suicide can occur with little to no warning signs, there are certain behaviours that can indicate that a person is planning to take their own life.

Some common signs that may indicate suicide include:

  • Depression and despair
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Threatening suicide
  • Poor hygiene and lack of grooming
  • Sudden cheerfulness and/or calmness
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Giving away their possessions

If you notice these signs in a friend or family member, speak to them regarding your concerns immediately.

2. Take them seriously

If someone expresses a desire to take their own life, do not dismiss their words. Instead, you should remove any object that they may use to harm themselves and try to keep them as calm as possible. If the individual appears extremely distressed, it may be beneficial to call 999 or accompany them to A&E.

Some people believe that threatening suicide is attention-seeking behaviour and that the person will likely not follow through with their threat. This line of thinking is dangerous, and any talk of suicide should be taken seriously.

3. Encourage them to seek help

It is important to encourage someone who is considering taking their own life to seek professional support, even if this step is as small as contacting the Samaritans.

While you will naturally want to help in any way possible, you are likely not trained in the appropriate way to respond in this scenario and your friend or family member will benefit more from speaking to a professional counsellor or trained helpline operator.

Of course, you can still provide support and a listening ear during this time.

4. Show support and empathy

Many people who contemplate suicide do so because they feel lonely, isolated and misunderstood.

They may simply need a shoulder to lean on and the knowledge that they are not alone, and providing a safe and non-judgemental environment in which they can unburden themselves can be highly effective.

Make sure to listen to their words, show that you care and let them know that they can always speak to you about what’s on their mind. You may be surprised to see just how much difference you can make.


[1] https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/suicide-facts-and-figures/

[2] https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-017-1398-8

[3] https://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/120940/1/Men_and_suicide_prevention_a_scoping_review_author_accepted_copy_16.6.17.pdf