A systematic review of suicidal behaviour in men: A narrative synthesis of risk factors

Soc Sci Med. 2021 May:276:113831. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.113831. Epub 2021 Mar 11.


Rationale: Suicides by men outnumber those by women in every country of the world. To date, there has not been a comprehensive systematic review of risk factors for suicidal behaviour in men to better understand the excess deaths by suicide in men.

Objective: The present systematic review seeks to determine the nature and extent of the risk factors to predict suicidal behaviour in men over time.

Methods: A range of databases (CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science Core Collection, Pubmed, Embase, and Psychology and Behavioural Sciences Collection) were searched from inception to January 2020 for eligible articles. The findings were collated through a narrative synthesis of the evidence.

Results: An initial 601 studies were identified. Following the inclusion and exclusion criteria, there were 105 eligible studies (62 prospective and 43 retrospective) identified. Overall, the risk factors with the strongest evidence predicting suicidal behaviour in men were alcohol and/or drug use/dependence; being unmarried, single, divorced, or widowed; and having a diagnosis of depression. In the prospective studies, the most consistent evidence was for sociodemographic factors (19 risk factors), mental health/psychiatric illness (16 risk factors), physical health/illness (13 risk factors), and negative life events/trauma (11 risk factors). There were a small number of psychological factors (6 factors) and characteristics of suicidal behaviour (3 factors) identified. The findings from the retrospective studies provided further evidence for the risk factors identified in the prospective studies.

Conclusions: This systematic review has highlighted the wide range of risk factors for suicidal behaviour in men, in this review alone 68 different risk factors were identified. Many factors can interact and change in relevance throughout an individual's life. This review has identified extensive gaps in our knowledge as well as suggestions for future research.

Keywords: Males; Men; Risk factor; Suicidal behaviour; Suicide; Suicide attempt; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide*