Research report: Men and Suicide

Why are men in mid-life, from disadvantaged backgrounds, more at risk of suicide?

We commissioned five leading social scientists in psychology, sociology, economics and gender studies to look at the issues facing this group of men. Download the full report here.

The report

Media report - "Men and Suicide: Why it's a social issue" (PDF)

Full report - "Men, Suicide and Society" (PDF)

Reference: Wyllie, C., Platt, S., Brownlie, J., Chandler, A., Connolly, S., Evans, R., Kennelly, B. et al. (2012). Men, Suicide and Society. Why disadvantaged men in mid-life die by suicide. Surrey: Samaritans.

The research results

Our research, Men and Suicide: Why it’s a social issue, reveals that: 

  • men compare themselves against a ‘gold standard’ which prizes power, control and invincibility;
  • men in mid-life are now part of the ‘buffer’ generation, not sure whether to be like their older, more traditional, strong, silent, austere fathers or like their younger, more progressive, individualistic sons;
  • with the decline of traditional male industries, these men have lost not only their jobs but also a source of masculine pride and identity;
  • men in mid-life remain overwhelmingly dependent on a female partner for emotional support.

Main findings

The main findings are split into 6 key themes and below are some of the issues raised: 

  1. Personality traits – some traits can interact with factors such as deprivation, unemployment, social disconnection and triggering events, such as relationship breakdown or job loss, to increase the risk of suicide. 
  2. Masculinity – more than women, men respond to stress by taking risks, like misusing alcohol and drugs.
  3. Relationship breakdowns – marriage breakdown is more likely to lead men, rather than women, to suicide.
  4. Challenges of mid-life – people currently in mid-life are experiencing more mental health problems and unhappiness compared to younger and older people.  
  5. Emotional illiteracy – men are much less likely than women to have a positive view of counselling or therapy, and when they do use these services, it is at the point of crisis.
  6. Socio-economic factors – unemployed people are 2-3 times more likely to die by suicide than those in work and suicide increases during economic recession.

Suicide in disadvantaged men in their middle years is a health and social inequality issue.

Men living in these circumstances are up to 10 times more at risk of suicide than those living in the most advantaged conditions. 

6 recommendations

Samaritans has made 6 recommendations for policy-makers and practitioners to debate and take forward:

  1. Take on the challenge of tackling the gender and socio-economic inequalities in suicide risk.
  2. Suicide prevention policy and practice must take account of men’s views of what it is to ‘be a man’.
  3. Recognise that for men in mid-life, loneliness is a very significant cause of their high risk of suicide.
  4. There must be explicit links between alcohol reduction and suicide prevention strategies.
  5. Support GPs to recognise signs of distress in men.
  6. Provide leadership and accountability at local level.