‘Tough Guys’ May Be at Especially High Risk for Suicide

THURSDAY, Feb. 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Young men who believe that “real men don’t cry” may be more prone to suicide, a new study suggests.

It has long been known that men are more likely than women to end their own lives: In the United States, the suicide death rate among men is about 3.5 times that of women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The statistics raise the question of whether traditional norms about masculinity could play some role, said lead researcher Daniel Coleman.

On the face of it, he explained, it makes sense that those expectations of “manly” men — which include denying emotions, not reaching out for help, and aggressiveness — could contribute to suicide risk.

But it’s also a challenging subject to study, said Coleman, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Social Services at Fordham University in New York City.

To start to dig into it, his team used data from a health study that began tracking over 20,700 U.S. teenagers back in 1995. By 2014, 22 of them had died by suicide — all but one of whom were men.

The researchers found that young men who’d scored in the “high traditional masculinity” range were 2.4 times more likely to die by suicide than other men.

That measure was based on traits like “not crying,” a resistance to being “emotional” or “moody,” staying physically fit, and “risk-taking.”

Why would men who strive for those norms be at greater risk of suicide? The findings suggest there could be an indirect “web” of influences, Coleman said.

Men who were high in traditional masculinity were also more likely in their youth to have ever used a weapon, been expelled from school or in serious fights, or run away from home. They were also more likely than other men to have a family member who’d died by suicide. And all of those factors, in turn, were related to a higher risk of suicide.

That suggests beliefs about masculine norms could be part of what underlies those other risk factors for suicide. So if those beliefs could be addressed, Coleman said, it might be possible to sway a number of the things that drive men’s suicide risk.


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