How Suicide Differs Between Men and Women

Women's Health | | Clara Wang
5 min read

This article discusses some graphic aspects of suicide for the sake of seeking patterns that may help explain deicion-making and how we can use this data to reduce suicides. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 for help.

According to the World Health Organization, over 700,000 people around the world take their own lives every single year, with several times that number who attempt to. Every suicide and suicide attempt significantly impacts the person’s friends, community, and family.

It’s important to remember that suicide isn’t a “first-world problem” that only happens in high-income countries, but affects people from countries of different development levels. In 2019, more than 77% of global suicides happened in low- and middle-income countries, and the majority of suicides continue to occur in countries with middling to struggling economies. 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for suicide, and it’s important to take into account the differences in how various groups are impacted by this tragedy in order for experts to best develop and design strategies for intervention and prevention.

This article discusses the distinctions between male and female suicide patterns and delves into why men continue to die from suicide at higher rates than women.

Comparing Suicide Statistics in Men and Women

Around the world, there is a distinct pattern – more men than women die from suicide. In the UK, suicide remains the single biggest killer of males under 45 years of age, with suicide rates for UK women a third of that at 4.9 suicides per 100,000 versus 15.5 deaths per 100,000. This isn’t a unique situation:

  • In Australia, men are three times more likely than women to die from suicide.
  • In the U.S., men are 3.5 more likely than women to die from suicide.
  • In Russia and Argentina, men are more than four times more likely to die from suicide.
  • The World Health Organization reports that globally, almost 40% of countries have more than 15 suicide deaths per 100,000 men, while only 1.5% of countries have similar rates for women. 

Why are men more likely to die from suicide?

Although men are 2 – 4 times more likely than women to actually die from suicide, women are around 3 times as likely than men to attempt suicide. Women display significantly higher rates of suicidal ideation, non-fatal suicidal behavior, and suicide attempts compared to men.

Unfortunately, since women have much higher rates of attempted suicides compared to completed suicides, many people have the incorrect impression that suicide attempts in women are a means of trying to get attention rather than a serious risk to their life and wellness.

This is a starkly wrong assumption, and it’s critical to remember that among women (just as it is for all people), a failed suicide attempt is still the number one risk factor for attempting suicide – perhaps successfully – in the future.

Suicide attempts by men are more severe

Even when the same manner of suicide is used by women and men, the suicide attempts by men are statistically 60% more likely to be severe. Men who survive a suicide attempt are also more likely than their female counterparts to require hospitalization for intensive care.

When it comes to suicide attempts using the same method, men are more likely to shoot themselves in a fatal manner than women. The underlying cause for this is not completely understood, but it is likely correlated to how women have a lower rate of death intention. Others say that women opt for less fatal manners for fears of disfigurement if the attempt fails. 

Comparing Suicide Methods In Men vs. Women

As we touched on above, a key reason for the difference between suicides and attempts between males and females is method. Generally speaking, men are more likely to select more lethal methods of suicide (hanging, firearms, and asphyxiation), whereas women are more likely to employ methods like drug or medication overdose.

One gender role that may influence this difference is that men are more likely than women to have access to and training with firearms.

Below we compare the most common forms of suicide based on gender.

Common suicide methods in women:

  • Drowning
  • Self-poisoning
  • Exsanguination (bleeding out, such as from “slitting” the wrists)
  • Firearms
  • Hanging

Common suicide methods in men:

  • Hanging
  • Firearms
  • Jumping
  • Asphyxiation or suffocation
  • Sharp objects
  • Moving objects
  • Vehicle exhaust gas

Why There Are Gender Differences in Suicide

It is difficult to pinpoint any specific reason for the gender disparities in suicide, but a number of different theories have arisen analyzing the part that social expectations and gender roles play.

Moreover, the likelihood of attempted and successful suicides among the LGBTQ+ non-binary community is much higher than the rest of the population, and it’s important to remember that no matter what gender you are, suicide is a serious issue 

  • It is typically more accepted in societies for women than men to openly seek help and express vulnerability, making it more likely for them to attempt suicide as a way to ask for help rather than completing suicide.
  • Gender stereotypes for men needing to be “strong” and “tough” doesn’t leave room for failure, which may result in men choosing a more lethal and violent means of suicide.
  • When faced with psychological illness or distress, women may be more likely to attempt suicide at an earlier point than men, making it more of a way of communicating distress rather than completing suicide.
  • Serious suicide attempts using violent means can be seen as “masculine,” so women may feel more reluctant to engage in them.
  • Women may have less incentive to complete suicide because they may be more likely to take how others feel into consideration, such as their children or family.
  • Women may feel less shame around suicide, making it easier to change their minds.

Again, this article is intended to discuss suicide with the aim to help those who are in need. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 for help.

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