The suicide rate for middle-aged Americans has risen by nearly 30 percent over the past decade. This news is depressing enough on its own, but the gender breakdown is where it gets disturbing: According to the New York Times, middle-aged American men kill themselves at nearly four times the rate that women do.
W. Bradford Wilcox looks at the broader context for these stats and finds that larger social and economic factors may be at play:
The geographic caste of suicide underlines the communitarian argument made by Emile Durkheim in his classic work, Suicide. Durkheim stressed that men (note that men kill themselves at much higher rates than do women) are more likely to commit suicide when they get disconnected from society’s core institutions (e.g., marriage, religion) or when their economic prospects take a dive (e.g., unemployment). So, men are more likely to thrive and survive when they have a job, a wife, and a community connection to a church or some other group that grounds their lives.
Unemployed men are 126 percent more likely to kill themselves than their employed counterparts. And as we’ve written before, unemployed men are generally unappealing candidates for marriage, hurting their romantic prospects and increasing their sense of alienation. Unmarried men are a whopping 240 percent more likely to take their own lives than married men.
Perhaps most shocking about this story is the relative silence with which it has been met. If women were taking their lives in record numbers, largely due to their inability to find employment or husbands, you could bet that federal tribunals, support groups, and cries for policy change would abound. But thousands of men take their own life, lost in the shadows, and much of the press seem content to let the stories remain there.