While there are hundreds of risk factors for suicide, including highly personalized stressors and ideographic reasons for living and dying, one risk factor that is commonly discussed is gender – and, as more recently recognized, gender identification.

Gender Differences in Suicidal Behavior

Does one’s gender affect the likelihood that one will consider or attempt suicide, and how likely is a suicide attempt to result in death depending on a person’s gender? Answering these questions and many more like them has produced a body of knowledge that has become known as the “gender paradox.”

Perhaps greater insight into the gender paradox will better arm those in our field to serve our communities more effectively. Here are five gender-based trends identified as part of the gender paradox that healthcare professionals and others working in the suicide prevention should be aware of.

Trend #1:  Men Die by Suicide More than Women

According to the CDC1, men account for 76% of deaths by suicide in the U.S. each year. This means that for every female death by suicide, 3.3 males die from suicide.

Trend #2:  Women Discuss Thoughts of Suicide More than Men

While men may die by suicide more often than women, women are two to three times more likely to discuss suicidal thoughts. This may mean that women get preventative treatment more often than men, men are simply less likely to discuss suicidal thoughts when experiencing them, or women do, on average, think about suicide more than men. We have yet to determine exactly why this relationship between gender and suicidal thoughts exists.

Trend #3:  Women Have More Previous Suicide Attempts than Men

For every one male suicide attempt, three females attempt suicide. Furthermore, well over half of the women who die by suicide have at least one reported previous attempt, while the same is true for less than half of men. This finding occurs most likely because of the first trend, that men die from suicide more often than women. Women more often survive their first suicide attempt – possibly because they tend to use less violent means, which brings us to Trend #4.

Trend #4:  Men Die from Suicide by Firearms More than Women

Men are generally more likely to use more violent methods of suicide, including suicide by firearm. In fact, about 60% of male suicides involved a firearm, while only about 30% of women used a firearm. This statistic helps explain why men die by suicide more often than women, since 80% of attempts using a firearm result in death.

Trend #5:  Research about Suicide in Transgender and Gender-Diverse (TGD) Individuals is Growing

Up until the late 2000s, most knowledge of gender-based trends in suicide was based on the view of binary gender, limited to male/female only. However, recently scholars have begun to investigate suicide in those whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. While much more research is needed on the subject, one research study2 discovered that TGD veterans died by suicide at over two times the rate of the national average of veteran suicide, and over six times the rate of the general population. Clearly, more research is needed on this increasingly important aspect of gender and suicide.


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Suicide rising across the US. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/index.html

2 National Center for Biotechnology Information, Prevalence of gender identity disorder and suicide risk amount transgender veterans utilizing veterans health administration care. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23947310