Most American men who die by suicide have no known history of mental health problems, according to new research from UCLA professor brand kaplan and colleagues
“What is surprising about our study is the apparent absence of standard psychiatric markers of suicidality among the large numbers of men of all ages who die by suicide,” said Kaplan, a professor of social well-being at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
For the study, posted online In the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Kaplan and her co-authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked recent suicide deaths among American men ages 10 and older. They found that 60% of the victims had no documented mental health conditions.
In addition, men with no history of mental health problems were killed more frequently by firearms than those with known mental health problems, and many were found to have alcohol in their systems, 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 problems than women. In 2019, for example, men accounted for 80% of all suicide deaths in the US, the authors said, and suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among men ages 10 and older.
Kaplan and his colleagues examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System for the most recent three-year period available, 2016 to 2018, during which more than 70,000 American men committed suicide. They found that more than 42,000 of them had no known mental health problems.
The researchers then compared the characteristics of people with and without known mental health conditions throughout their lives in four age groups: adolescents (10 to 17 years), young adults (18 to 34), middle-aged adults (35 to 64) and older adults (65 years or older). Identifying the various factors that contribute to suicides among these groups is crucial to developing targeted suicide prevention efforts, especially outside of mental health systems, the team emphasized.
Among their findings, they discovered that in all groups, those without known mental health conditions were less likely to have had a history of contemplation or attempted suicide, or both, than those with such affairs. In particular, young and middle-aged adults with no known mental health problems revealed suicidal intentions much less frequently, they said.
In addition, men with no mental health history who died by suicide in three of the four age groups (adolescents, young adults, and middle-aged men) more frequently experienced relationship problems, arguments, or other personal crises as precipitating circumstances. that for those with prior history.
The researchers emphasized the importance of targeting these types of acute situational stressors as part of suicide prevention efforts and working to discourage alcohol, drug, and weapon use during times of crisis, particularly for adolescents and young adults, who may be more likely to act impulsively.
Kaplan and her colleagues said the findings highlight the potential benefits of strategies to create protective environments, provide support during stressful transitions, and improve coping and problem-solving skills throughout life.
“Suicide prevention initiatives for men 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 findings,” Kaplan said, “could begin to change views about non-mental health factors that increase the suicide rate among men.”