Why do more men commit suicide than women?

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by Simon Watt, Frontiers Science Writer

Why do more men die when they attempt suicide than women? The answer could lie in four traits, find scientists.

More than 6,000 British lives are lost to suicide each year, and nearly 75 per cent of those are male. However, research has found women are more likely to suffer from depression, and to attempt to take their own life.

Scientists interested in this sex difference looked into why men’s attempts at suicide were more likely to be fatal, in a study published in open-access journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Although men tend to choose more lethal methods than women do, the study found that even when men and women try to kill themselves using the same method, men are still more likely to die.

4 traits for suicide

Prof. Gopikrishna Deshpande and his team from Auburn University in USA found there are four traits defined as “the acquired capability for suicide” which men are more likely to have than women.

The traits are fearlessness of death, pain tolerance, emotional stoicism and sensation seeking. People experiencing a desire to commit suicide will not do so without first losing their fear of dying and developing the necessary pain tolerance to endure making a lethal attempt.

There is also a level of emotional stoicism that is needed to go through with a lethal act. Finally, some individuals, as a means of release, will actively pursue the sensations of pain that are related to suicidal action.

Nature or nurture?

However, despite many explanations as to why men are more likely than women to exhibit these traits, it is up for debate whether these characteristics are innate or formed through life experience.

Deshpande believes that, if the specific brain networks that have been highlighted by this study are confirmed as being involved in suicidal action, then perhaps, “in the distant future techniques such as deep brain stimulation, transcranial magnetic and electrical stimulation and focused ultrasound could be used to make individuals less suicidal.”

They also noted that, in men, the networks involved motor regions which are more associated with action, while the networks in women were dominated by brain regions which determine the emotional state of a person.

Prof. Deshpande said: “this may support the fact that suicidal desire generally leads to decisive fatal action in males while in females, it manifests as depression, ideation and generally non-fatal actions.”

Read the full article in Frontiers in Psychiatry


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2 Comments on Why do more men commit suicide than women?

  1. Factors that might be considered: stiff upper lip, boys don’t cry, etc. If emotions are repressed, if showing weakness is a sign of being unmanly, if ‘strength’ is the only side that a person can show, then when times get really tough and stiff upper lip alone won’t cut it, the only remaining option is to give up altogether. The meditation movement is helping to eradicate repressed emotions and is also being used in the treatment of PTSD, and to help people with grave illnesses live with their emotions. Will the proliferation of meditation skills reduce the number of suicides? Likely.

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  2. Other factors that can certainly be considered are that men are expected to go out and succeed; failure is not an option. There
    are also tremendous hidden pressures put on men by themselves, as well as their family members in regards to their success
    in life. Young men are often pushed way too hard and anything less than excellence is considered failure and shameful. I also
    feel that men (in general) carry far more responsibilities than women and will often accept consequences for things that are out
    of their control. At home, a husband/father carries the burden of providing for their family. Men are no longer just feeling the pressures
    of making sure that their is a roof over their heads and food on the table. In today’s climate of: “Keeping up with the Joneses”, a man
    might feel like a failure because his wife’s friends live in bigger houses and drive nicer cars, or their children’s friends live in bigger
    houses, have nicer toys, can afford new cars for their teenage daughters etc. I am actually having difficulty now that I am sitting here
    typing all of this out. I was the Blacksheep of the Family and was routinely abused physically by my father who was a rageaholic.
    There were days when he would come home and I knew that he wanted to hit me- he just needed a reason. He would tell me to get
    my schoolbooks and he would look through the work I had done searching for a mistake that he could use as a reason to haul off and
    hit me. My siblings (all older by 5-9 years) would laugh at me afterwards. I moved far away when I was 20 and I even left my closest
    friends who were my sole support structure and knew what I had gone through. Even 25 years later, when I am back at home for some
    reason, they all find ways to bring up specific events that were abusive to me and they still laugh about it. Anyways, I know all about the
    stresses and the pressures that a man can be under. I am now disabled with permanent spinal injury to my neck. My wife left me when
    it was decided that I was not a candidate for surgery because of the breakdown in the bone structure. I am still feeling a tremendous
    sense of failure because of this. I think often of the insurance policy I have that will provide enough money for my children to go through
    any educational program they choose for post secondary education; as well as a decent start in life. If I structure it smart enough, they
    will get lump sums when they turn 25. I guess I just want people to know that men who are not successful in life will often feel like failures.
    No father wants his children to look at him as a failure or as a burden to the family. Telling your husband that you are proud of him or that
    you will never leave him can go a long ways to building him up. Telling him that he is useless can break him down just as easily. If you have
    a husband or a father that you love- tell him so. Words of encouragement can go a long way to making a man- feel like a man.

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