Why is the male suicide rate rising?
The reasons why the number of men taking their own lives has risen in recent years are far from clear. All of the proposed explanations share a common feature: the changing role of men in society:
- Adolescence has been prolonged, with adulthood and independence reached at a much later age than previously. Two generations ago, work began at the age of 14 years; one generation ago at 16 years for most; now many men only achieve financial independence in their 20s.
- Men have a more stressful time in achieving educational goals than in the past and are less successful now than women.
- Work is much less secure and periods of unemployment are the norm for many (psychologically the threat of unemployment is at least as harmful as unemployment itself).
- Alcohol use, and abuse, has increase markedly since the Second World War. Such use is often an attempt to cope with stress and to self-medicate symptoms.
- llegal drug abuse has become much more common (a correlation between the youth suicide rate and the rate of convictions for drug offences has been demonstrated in some countries).
- Changes that are assumed to be symptoms of the “breakdown of society” are associated with a rising suicide rate (examples include the rising divorce rate and falling church attendances).
- In many societies, expressing emotions, for example sadness, fear, disappointment or regret, is seen as being less acceptable for boys than girls. In common parlance: “boys don’t cry”.