Dr. Helen

Why Are Men Killing Themselves by Suffocation?

A reader sent me a link to the actual study on middle-aged suicide and as I looked over it I noticed the following information: Suicide circumstances varied considerably by age, with those related to job, financial, and legal problems most common among individuals aged 40–64 years. Between 2005 and 2010, the proportion of suicides where these circumstances were present increased among this age group, from 32.9% to 37.5% of completed suicides (p<0.05).

Digging deeper into the data, one finds that men are the ones using suffocation as a suicide method most often. For example, for middle-aged men, 4186 (from 2005-2010) of them used suffocation as a method compared to 931 women (click on the table to enlarge):

Rising Suicide Among Adults Aged 40–64 Years - American Journal of Preventive Medicine

The authors point out: “Not surprisingly, suffocation as a suicide method was more common in areas where firearm prevalence is lower. Increases in the use of suffocation were similarly greater in states where gun ownership is less common.” The authors also state: “Suffocation, another highly lethal and broadly accessible suicide method, is similarly associated with suicides where interpersonal and especially external circumstances are present.”

Based on the information in the charts,  31.3% of middle-aged men who committed suicide had “intimate partner problems.” I wonder what these problems looked like and if they are more likely to lead to suicide by suffocation. How many of these men were feeling stuck in a bad marriage or relationship with no help available? How do we reach these men?