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Why is the male suicide rate rising?

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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”.

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