John Neumann for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Researchers in the UK are suggesting that suicide rates among middle-aged males are climbing after years of dropping off.
Reasons for this trend are varied for individuals, but as a group, a panel of psychologists, economists and social scientists concluded that the pressure to meet the expectations of others is too much for some.
Other reasons include a breakdown in supportive family units and the collapse of traditional male-dominated industries creating a “masculine identity” crisis. Traditionally, males are also more unwilling to discuss personal problems, which could alleviate their self-imposed pressure.
Working class men who have lost not just a job, but an entire career, find themselves struggling to provide for the family. A reluctance to talk about emotions and a greater tendency to turn to drink and drugs were also cited as reasons for the suicide rates among this group, BBC Health News reports.
Rory O´Connor, professor from the University of Stirling, suggested the shift could be partially explained by an aging generation of at-risk people. “The data would suggest it is the same group of people. We think of young people 20 years ago and the societal expectations of what is a successful man or a successful contributor to society, the expectations were particularly high.”
“And with the change in the male role being less well-defined now than it was 20 years ago, men have great difficulty responding to the challenge of how we define ourselves as men.”
The report, commissioned by the UK charity Samaritans, presenting the report at a briefing in London, argues that the pressure to live up to a “gold standard” of masculinity, involving providing for the family, often turns personal troubles such as losing a job into a crisis in a way that it might not for women.
Such issues are more acute in middle age, when the responsibilities are greatest, it adds. Meanwhile major changes in the economy in recent decades, with a shift away from manufacturing, has removed a source of male “pride, identity and companionship”.
The report further found that rapid social change has left middle aged men as a “buffer generation”, caught between the “stiff-upper lip” approach of the previous generation and the very different lives of younger people.
“While suicide is a mental health issue…. it is also a social and health inequality issue. This is unjust and unreasonable,” said Stephen Platt, a University of Edinburgh health policy research professor and trustee for the Samaritans.
“The differences we are highlighting in this report.. are not ones that any civilized society should be comfortable with.”
While the report focused on Britain, the experts said the findings were relevant to many developed countries across the world, especially those that have experienced a post-industrial shift to service-driven economies, reports Kate Kelland for Reuters.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year, almost a million people commit suicide – a rate of 16 per 100,000, or one every 40 seconds. It also estimates that for every suicide, there are up to 20 attempted ones.
The Samaritans study found that in Britain, on average, about 3,000 middle-aged men from disadvantaged backgrounds kill themselves each year.