Men’s mental health struggles often go unrecognized or undiagnosed, and due to widespread stigma and misunderstanding surrounding suicide, deaths by suicide may be incorrectly or mistakenly listed as ‘deaths by unintentional injuries’. As such, many of the statistics below are likely to be under-estimations of the real toll that suicide takes on men, their families, and their communities.

When discussing suicide, it is important to think about the language we use. Instead of saying “commit suicide”, we refer to these tragedies as “deaths by suicide”. This careful choice of words is crucial, as the term “commit” can imply criminality or sinfulness, which may deter men from seeking the support they need. Our goal is to encourage individuals contemplating suicide to reach out for help. Therefore, we must avoid any language that might dissuade them from accessing the support they deserve.

Key statistics around suicide and depression

  • Almost 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, nearly twice the number who die by homicide.(1)
  • For every death by suicide, there are approximately 20 suicide attempts made.(2)
  • Each death by suicide leaves behind a community of bereaved family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. For every death by suicide, at least 7 to 10 people are directly affected by the loss.(3)  
  • Research shows that mental illness is the most important risk factor for suicide. More than 90% of people who die by suicide struggle with their mental health and/ or addiction.(4)(5) Researchers estimate that up to 60% of people who die by suicide have major depression.(6)(7)

Men and Suicide

The global disparity in suicide rates between men and women is a well-documented phenomenon, with men consistently exhibiting higher rates. This disparity is attributed to a complex interplay of many factors.

While men tend to use more lethal methods of suicide (e.g., hanging, firearms), they are more likely to die during any attempt, meaning that it is not the method alone that explains the vast difference in suicide rates between men and women.(8)  Other factors, such as alcohol use, severity of underlying illness, loneliness, and shame, must be considered as contributing factors to the elevated suicide rates among men.(9) Together, these findings highlight the need for targeted interventions and public health initiatives to address the unique challenges faced by men in relation to suicide risk.

Men account for 75-80% of deaths by suicide

  • Canada: In Canada, men account for 3 out of every 4 suicides. Roughly 8 men take their life every day, amounting to 3,000 deaths per year.(10)
  • UK: In the UK, men die by suicide at rate 3 times more often women. Nearly 12 men lose their lives to suicide every day, or approximately 4,500 suicides each year. (11)
  • USA: In the United States, the suicide rate among males is 4 times higher than among females. Male deaths represent 79% of suicides, amounting to roughly 100 men who die by suicide every day, over 36,000 annually. (12) (13)

Suicide is a leading cause of death for men under age 50

  • Canada: Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for men under the age of 50.(14)
  • UK: Suicide is the single largest cause of death for men under the age of 50.(15)
  • USA: Suicide is the 2nd most common cause of death for men under the age of 45.(16)

Men are much less likely to get help for their mental health

According to a meta-analysis looking at 20 studies across North America and Western Europe, 19.7% of men (fewer than 1 in 5) had contact with mental health professionals in the year leading up to suicide, compared to 35.0% of women.(17)

  • Canada: According to a 2005 survey of 132,221 Canadians, Canadian men were found to be 2.7 times less likely to utilize mental health services than Canadian women.(18)
  • UK: Only 36% of referrals to the United Kingdom National Health Service for talk therapy are for men.(19)
  • USA: In the year before suicide, only 35% of men, on average, sought care from a mental health practitioner.(20)

Thoughts of suicide are common among men

16.2% of HeadsUpGuys Self Check submissions reflect daily thoughts about suicide.

  • Canada: In 2019, 1,666,200 Canadian men over the age of 15 (roughly 9% of the male population) reported that they have seriously contemplated suicide in their lifetime.(21)
  • UK: According to a 2007 national survey, 6.1% of men 16+ reported having thoughts of suicide within the past year.(22) 
  • USA: In 2015, roughly 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older thought seriously about trying to kill themselves in the previous 12 months, and males and females were found to have similar rates.(23) 

Next Steps

Learn more about how to seek support and help prevent suicide in men on main our Suicide in Men page. You can also read our post, How to Talk about Suicide, to learn about common phrases we see, hear, and use that may inadvertently perpetuate stigma related to suicide.


References:

  1. World Health Organization. (2014). Preventing suicide: A global imperative
  2. World Health Organization. (2019, July 8). Suicide prevention. https://www.who.int/health-topics/suicide#tab=tab_1
  3. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2021). Suicide in Canada – Canada.ca. Government of Canada. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/suicide-prevention/suicide-canada.html
  4. Weir, E., & Wallington, T. (2001). Suicide: the hidden epidemic. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 165(5), 634–636.
  5. Mościcki, E. K. (2001). Epidemiology of completed and attempted suicide: toward a framework for prevention. Clinical Neuroscience Research, 1(5), 310–323. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1566-2772(01)00032-9
  6. Cavanagh, J. T., Carson, A. J., Sharpe, M., & Lawrie, S. M. (2003). Psychological autopsy studies of suicide: a systematic review. Psychological medicine, 33(3), 395–405. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0033291702006943
  7. Lesage, A. D., Boyer, R., Grunberg, F., Vanier, C., Morissette, R., Ménard-Buteau, C., & Loyer, M. (1994). Suicide and mental disorders: a case-control study of young men. The American journal of psychiatry, 151(7), 1063–1068. https://doi.org/10.1176/ajp.151.7.1063
  8. Cibis, A., Mergl, R., Bramesfeld, A., Althaus, D., Niklewski, G., Schmidtke, A., & Hegerl, U. (2012). Preference of lethal methods is not the only cause for higher suicide rates in males. Journal of Affective Disorders, 136(1-2), 9–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2011.08.032
  9. ibid.,
  10. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2020). Suicide in Canada: Key Statistics (infographic) – Canada.ca. Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/suicide-canada-key-statistics-infographic.html
  11. Mental Health Foundation. (2021). Men and mental health. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/men-and-mental-health 
  12. National Centre for Health Statistic (2019). Suicide Rates for Females and Males by Race and Ethnicity: United States, 1999 and 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/suicide/rates_1999_2017.htm
  13. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Leading Causes of Death – Males – All races and origins – United States, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/minorityhealth/lcod/men/2018/all-races-origins/index.htm
  14. Statistics Canada. (2020). Leading causes of death, total population, by age group. https://doi.org/10.25318/1310039401-eng
  15. Mental Health Foundation. (2021). Men and mental health. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/men-and-mental-health
  16. Walby, F. A., Myhre, M. V., & Kildahl, A. T. (2018). Contact With Mental Health Services Prior to Suicide: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Psychiatric Services, 69(7), 751–759. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201700475
  17. McDonald, B., Kulkarni, M., Andkhoie, M., Kendall, J., Gall, S., Chelladurai, S., Yaghoubi, M., McClean, S., Szafron, M., & Farag, M. (2017). Determinants of self-reported mental health and utilization of mental health services in Canada. International Journal of Mental Health, 46(4), 299–311. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207411.2017.1345045
  18. Luoma, J. B., Martin, C. E., & Pearson, J. L. (2002). Contact With Mental Health and Primary Care Providers Before Suicide: A Review of the Evidence. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159(6), 909–916. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.159.6.909
  19. Mental Health Foundation. (2021). Men and mental health. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/men-and-mental-health
  20. Luoma, J. B., Martin, C. E., & Pearson, J. L. (2002). Contact With Mental Health and Primary Care Providers Before Suicide: A Review of the Evidence. American Journal of Psychiatry159(6), 909–916. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.159.6.909
  21. Statistics Canada. (2020b, August 6). Mental health characteristics and suicidal thoughts. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1310009801
  22. Spiers, N., Bebbington, P., Dennis, M., Brugha, T., McManus, S., Jenkins, R., & Meltzer, H. (2014). Trends in suicidal ideation in England: The National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys of 2000 and 2007. Psychological Medicine, 44(1), 175-183. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291713000317
  23. Piscopo, K., Lipari, R. N., Cooney, J., & Glasheen, C. (2016, September). Suicidal thoughts and behavior among adults: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. NSDUH Data Review. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/