Suicide among males is a major public health challenge. In 2019, males accounted for nearly 80% of the suicide deaths in the U.S., and suicide was the eighth leading cause of death for males aged ≥10 years. Males who die by suicide are less likely to have known mental health conditions than females; therefore, it is important to identify prevention points outside of mental health systems. The purpose of this analysis was to compare suicide characteristics among males with and without known mental health conditions by age group to inform prevention.
Suicides among 4 age groups of males were examined using the 3 most recent years of data at the time of the analysis (2016–2018) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System. Decedents with and without known mental health conditions were compared within age groups. The analysis was conducted in August 2021.
Most male suicide decedents had no known mental health conditions. More frequently, those without known mental health conditions died by firearm, and many tested positive for alcohol. Adolescents, young adults, and middle-aged males without known mental health conditions more often had relationship problems, arguments, and/or a crisis as a precipitating circumstance than those with known mental health conditions.
Acute stressors more often precipitated suicides of males without known mental health conditions, and they more often involved firearms. These findings underscore the importance of mitigating acute situational stressors that could contribute to emotionally reactive/impulsive suicides. Suicide prevention initiatives targeting males might focus on age-specific precipitating circumstances in addition to standard psychiatric markers.