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.
I do want to point out that divorced and middle-aged men are also at a high risk for suicide and the reasons are often complex. From Forbes:
The study found that the suicide rate was ten times higher in men of lower socioeconomic status than in affluent men. The link between suicide and unemployment has been known for some time, but the authors discuss the reasons why, beyond losing a job, socioeconomic class might affect suicide risk. One factor is the increasing “‘feminisation’ of employment (shift towards a more service-oriented economy),” which may cause men to feel like they have less room in the professional world. The authors write that “men in lower socioeconomic groups now have less access to jobs that allow for the expression of working-class masculinity, and have thus lost a source of masculine identity and ‘pride.’” Yet losing a job may still make men feel like a “double failure, since they are unable to meet two central demands of the masculine role: being employed; and ‘providing’ for the family.”
Another interesting finding is that while divorce and separation are linked to suicide risk in both sexes, divorced/separated men seem particularly vulnerable to suicidal “ideation” (thoughts and planning) and to suicide itself.
This may make sense, since it’s been shown that men derive more mental and physical health benefits from marriage than do women (although it’s good for both sexes) – so the breakdown of a marriage could lead to more detrimental outcomes for men. That said, there’s still a lot of pressure on men to fill out the masculine husband role, whatever socioeconomic class one is in, and the reality is that today this classic role may be somewhat unrealistic. “There is a large and unbridgeable gap between the culturally authorised idea of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ and the reality of everyday survival for men in crisis,” write the authors. One way of taking back one’s own masculinity, they suggest, is to take one’s own life.
Could men be taking their own lives to take back their masculinity? It’s an interesting theory but not a solution.