The gender paradox in suicide

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 1998 Spring;28(1):1-23.


In most Western countries females have higher rates of suicidal ideation and behavior than males, yet mortality from suicide is typically lower for females than for males. This article explores the gender paradox of suicidal behavior, examines its validity, and critically examines some of the explanations, concluding that the gender paradox of suicidal behavior is a real phenomenon and not a mere artifact of data collection. At the same time, the gender paradox in suicide is a more culture-bound phenomenon than has been traditionally assumed; cultural expectations about gender and suicidal behavior strongly determine its existence. Evidence from the United States and Canada suggests that the gender gap may be more prominent in communities where different suicidal behaviors are expected of females and males. These divergent expectations may affect the scenarios chosen by females and males, once suicide becomes a possibility, as well as the interpretations of those who are charged with determining whether a particular behavior is suicidal (e.g., coroners). The realization that cultural influences play an important role in the gender paradox of suicidal behaviors holds important implications for research and for public policy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Firearms
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Socialization
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology