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Are There Gender Differences in Suicide Methods?

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Updated September 01, 2011

Question: Are There Gender Differences in Suicide Methods?
Answer:

One of the most commonly reported differences in male and female suicide behavior is which of the suicide methods they select. Men tend to choose more violent -- and thus more likely to be lethal -- suicide methods, such as hanging, breathing vehicle exhaust gas, asphyxiation and firearms. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to choose self-poisoning.

Another difference in male and female suicide -- at least partially due to lethality of the chosen method -- is the fact that men actually die from suicide more frequently than women do, while women more often engage in what is known as deliberate self-harm (DSH). DSH includes any sort of self-harming behavior, whether or not the intent is to commit suicide. Examples of DSH include non-lethal drug overdose and self-injury.

Why the Differences?

Differences in gender roles and expectations may account for these differences in suicide behavior. The gender stereotype of men being "tough" and "strong" does not allow for failure, perhaps causing men to select a more violent and lethal method of suicide; while women, who are allowed (in social acceptance terms) the option to express weakness and ask for help, may use suicide attempts as a means of expressing their desire for assistance.

Experts suggest that gender might also influence what methods a person is familiar with or has ready access to. For example, men are generally more likely than women to be familiar with firearms and use them in their daily lives, and thus they might choose this method more often.

While certain generalizations can be made about male and female suicide behavior, it should be noted that general tendencies cannot be taken as absolute guidelines for suicide prevention efforts. Suicide attempts should always be taken seriously and not dismissed as attention seeking behavior, nor should it be assumed that only persons of a particular gender will use any given method.

Related Articles:

Source:

Payne, Sarah, Viren Swami, Debbi L. Stanistreet. "The social construction of gender and its influence on suicide: a review of the literature." Journal of Men's Health 5.1 (March 2008): 23-35.

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