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Why are male suicides so high?

Each year across the UK, approximately 6,000 people take their own lives. While women are more likely to attempt suicide or be diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression, men account for around three-quarters of all suicides.

Suicide is a very complex and sensitive issue, with many factors combining to push someone to take such drastic action. It's a mistake to generalise across cases, but questions remain as to why the rate of suicide is so much higher in men. We look at some relevant statistics and research to explore some of the reasoning behind the suicide gender gap.

Male Suicide Statistics

  • 4,639 men took their own life in the UK in 2020. (source)

  • 74% of all suicides in the UK involve men. (source)

  • The rate of suicide in men (15.4 per 100,000) is over three times higher than in women (4.9 per 100,000). (source)

  • Men aged 45-64 have the highest rate of suicide by age (20 per 100,000). (source)

  • Suicide is the second biggest cause of death in young males (1-19 years old). (source)

Why Do More Men Die From Suicide?

Generalising across all cases of suicide is not always helpful, but there are many possibilities that might explain why men are struggling.

Roles in society

For generations, societal roles have pressured men to "man up". They're encouraged to be tough, and any admittance that you're not ok is one of weakness. While women are often wrongly characterised as "emotional", men are not encouraged to speak up at all. It has its roots in childhood, when we're told that boys don't cry.

Dr Natasha Bijlani, a Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton, discusses the outdated idea of what it means to be a man:

“Traditionally, men have been less likely to seek support for mental health issues. This is probably for a number of reasons including stigma and the traditional ‘strong male’ stereotype still prevalent in our society – the idea that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness."

These gender roles maintain a stigma around mental health, leaving many men unable to discuss their true feelings when they are struggling or seek professional support and treatment.


Generally speaking, women tend to be more communicative around mental health, able to discuss their feelings with others rather than resorting to internalising their emotions. This is supported by surveys on the topic of mental health. As many as 40% of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health, despite over three-quarters suffering from common symptoms like anxiety, stress or depression. When asked why they don't speak up, the biggest reasons cited were:

  • ‘I’ve learnt to deal with it’ (40%)

  • ‘I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone’ (36%)

  • ‘I’m too embarrassed’ (29%)

  • ‘There’s negative stigma around this type of thing’ (20%)

The same survey found that, for four in ten men, it would take thoughts of suicide to compel them to ask for support for their mental health. The workplace is another part of life where a stigma has taken hold. 71% of people say they would be worried about telling their employer about their mental health struggles for fear of getting a negative response.

Given men are less likely to speak up in a medical setting, it makes them less likely to get the treatment they need when they are struggling. Men have been shown to be less willing to report symptoms of depression - which some see as one explanation for why women are more regularly diagnosed with mental health conditions.

Substance abuse

Alcohol and depression are inextricably linked. People will often drink excessively in order to self-medicate when they're suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety. Despite feeling more relaxed in the short term, alcohol is a depressant that, over time, will make symptoms worse. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 7% of men have an alcohol use disorder, compared to 4% of women.

Financial pressures

When pressures in your life are especially intense, many of the reasons above play a role that makes men more vulnerable to suicide. Our survey of 1,000 men put work pressures (32%) and financial pressures (31%) as the two biggest issues negatively affecting men's mental health. Again, gender roles may be relevant. Men have a tendency to view themselves as a failure if they are not able to provide for their families. During financial downturns, the BBC reports that rates of suicide increase, making men more at risk if they lose their job during a recession.

When workplace stigmas, an unwillingness to speak up, and the risk of substance abuse combine with a drastic change in someone's life, the risk of suicide can increase dramatically.

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