Summary: 60% of male suicide victims have no history of documented mental health problems, according to a new study.
A majority of American men who die by suicide have no known history of mental health problems, according to a new study led by UCLA professor Mark Kaplan and colleagues.
“What is striking about our study is the glaring absence of standard psychiatric markers of suicidality in large numbers of men of all ages who die by suicide,” said Kaplan, professor of social welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
For the study, published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Kaplan and his co-authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked recent suicide deaths among American men aged 10 and older. They found that 60% of victims had no documented mental health issues.
Additionally, men with no history of mental health problems died more frequently by firearm than those with known mental health problems, and many had alcohol in their system, the researchers noted.
The report highlights the major public health challenge of tackling suicide among men, who are much more likely to die by suicide and less likely to have known mental health issues than women. In 2019, for example, males accounted for 80% of all suicide deaths in the United States, the authors said, and suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among males age 10 and older.
Kaplan and his colleagues looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System for the most recent three-year period available, from 2016 to 2018, in which more than 70,000 American men were died by suicide. More than 42,000 of them had no known mental health issues, they found.
The researchers then compared the characteristics of people with and without known mental health problems throughout their life in four age groups: adolescents (10 to 17 years old), young adults (18 to 34 years old), adults middle age (35 to 64) and older. adults (65 and over).
Identifying the various factors that contribute to suicides among these groups is crucial for developing targeted suicide prevention efforts, especially outside of mental health systems, the team emphasized.
Among their findings, they found that across all groups, those who had no known mental health problems were less likely to have had a history of contemplating or attempting suicide, or both, than those who had such problems.
In particular, young and middle-aged adults with no known mental health issues disclosed suicidal intent significantly less often, they said.
Additionally, men with no mental health history who died by suicide in three of four age groups (adolescents, young adults, and middle-aged men) more frequently experienced relationship problems, arguments, or some other type of crisis. personal as triggering circumstances than those with a history.
Researchers have highlighted the importance of focusing on these types of acute situational stressors in suicide prevention efforts and working to discourage the use of alcohol, drugs and firearms by crisis times, especially in adolescents and young adults, who may be more prone to acting impulsively.
Kaplan and colleagues said the findings highlight the potential benefits of strategies aimed at creating protective environments, providing support during stressful transitions, and improving coping and problem-solving skills throughout the lifespan. life.
“Men’s suicide prevention initiatives could benefit from comprehensive approaches that focus on the age-specific stressors reported in this study, in addition to standard psychiatric markers,” the researchers wrote.
“These results,” Kaplan said, “may begin to change views about the non-mental health factors that drive up suicide rates in men.”
About this mental health and suicide research news
Original research: Free access.
“Male suicide across the lifespan: an analysis of differences by known mental health status” by Katherine A. Fowler et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Male suicide across the lifespan: an analysis of differences by known mental health status
Suicide among men is a major public health issue. In 2019, males accounted for nearly 80% of suicide deaths in the United States, and suicide was the eighth leading cause of death for males ≥ 10 years old. Men who die by suicide are less likely to have known mental health issues than women; therefore, it is important to identify points of prevention outside mental health systems. The purpose of this analysis was to compare the characteristics of suicide among men with and without known mental health conditions by age group to inform prevention.
Suicides among 4 age groups of men were examined using the most recent 3 years of data at the time of analysis (2016-2018) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System . People who died with and without known mental health problems were compared within age groups. The analysis was carried out in August 2021.
Most of the men who died by suicide had no known mental health issues. More frequently, those with no known mental health issues died from gunshot wounds, and many tested positive for alcohol. Teenagers, young adults, and middle-aged men without known mental health problems more often had relationship problems, arguments, and/or a crisis as a triggering event than those with known mental health problems.
Acute stressors more often precipitated the suicides of men without known mental health problems, and they more often involved firearms. These findings underscore the importance of mitigating acute situational stressors that may contribute to emotionally reactive/impulsive suicides. Suicide prevention initiatives targeting men could focus on age-specific triggers in addition to standard psychiatric markers.