Over the last two decades, the rate of suicide in the UK has been declining. There is the occasional year in which suicide rate increases, but the general trend is a decline. The percentage of men committing suicide, however, is shown to be steady. For over a decade man have made up almost 75 per cent of suicides. Studies published by ONS attempts to profile these men and the factors that push them to suicide.
Data published by the ONS shows, between 2011 to 2015, of the 13,232 suicides recorded in England with information on the deceased’s occupation, the majority (10,688; 81%) were among men. Since 2013, men between the age of 45-49 had the highest suicide rate. In comparison to their female counterpart in the same age bracket, men were three times more likely to commit suicide. In almost every single age bracket the number men of committing suicide are disproportionately high in comparison to women.
Some of the reasons given as to why men in their forties are prone to suicide: ‘economic adversity, alcoholism, and isolation’. The report also mentions men in that age group ‘are less inclined to seek help’. When looking at occupations, men in low skilled occupation had ’44 per cent higher risk of suicide than the male national average’. These jobs are often low paid, and on the social hierarchy, public opinion puts them at the lower end. Low skilled occupation can, therefore, create economic hardship and a feeling of social inadequacy. Factors which promote deteriorating mental health, and self-destructive behaviour.
This idea of economic and social hardships invoking suicidal behaviour is further reassured by the fact ‘highest paid occupation groups had the lowest risk of suicide’. The data shows corporate managers and directors are the least likely to commit suicide. These groups are near the top of the corporate ladder and in jobs that are widely esteemed.
However, there is some scepticism around whether economic conditions are a major cause of male suicide in Britain. World Health Organisation data on global suicide rates show countries such as Bangladesh, Algeria, Syria, Vietnam and scores of other countries with large sections of the population in absolute poverty have lower overall suicide rate, and often also have lower male suicide rate than the UK. The report also shows, multiple European countries with some of the highest standard of living world, somehow have a higher suicide rate than some developing countries that report some of the worst standards of living.
The ONS data clearly shows a correlation between low skilled job and suicide, but the evidence suggests a clear chain of causation between the two is not yet established.