ResearchMental Health

Male Suicide: Patterns and Recent Trends

Nov 17, 2023
Richard Reeves, Will Secker
A distressed male sitting on a bench with has hands cupping the back of his neck


This brief summarizes key facts and trends concerning male suicide. It includes a snapshot of male suicide in 2022, including breakdowns by age, race, and geography. We also explore the rise in male suicide rates since 1999, with a focus on trends by age. We find that earlier in the 2000s, growth in suicide was driven by middle aged men, but since 2010 it has been driven by younger men. The mental health crisis among young women and men, especially, is being manifested in importantly different ways, with higher rates of attempted suicide and suicidality among girls and women. Understanding these risks, not least of which is male suicide, and how they are changing over time, is important not only for policymakers and health professionals, but also for parents, teachers, and the general public.


Key Findings

  • In 2022, 39,282 men and 10,207 women took their own lives in the United States.
  • The suicide risk for men is four times higher than for women, while the rate of attempted suicide is higher for women than men.
  • If male suicide rates had been the same as women’s from 1999-2022, we would have lost 545,000 fewer men to suicide. 
  • Since 2010, suicide rates have risen by 34% for younger (25-34) men.
  • Rates are highest amongst men who are white, American Indian and Alaska Native, over 65, and living in rural areas.

Overview: Suicide is a universal tragedy, with major impacts on men

Deaths from suicide represent not only a major and growing public health challenge, they have a devastating impact on tens of thousands of families every year. In 2022, more lives were lost to suicide (49,000) than to car accidents (42,795) [1].  Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for those under 45, and rates in the United States are the 7th highest amongst OECD countries, and rising [2] [3].

This brief highlights male suicide. Loss of life to suicide is a tragedy on every single occasion, and for every single group. The focus here on men, who are at much higher risk of suicide, is intended to raise awareness and deepen general understanding of the scale of the problem.

Men have comparatively high rates of suicide

The elevated rate of suicide in the United States is a major health concern for all demographic groups. But some populations have a markedly higher risk than others [4]. Veterans, American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic white people, the elderly, and Americans living in rural areas all have higher suicide rates compared to their counterparts. However, the disparity between male and female suicide rates is much more pronounced than these other demographic differences, as Figure 1 shows.

Figure 1. Ratios are calculated as “Group 1 Suicide Rate/Group 2 Suicide Rate” to show the relative disparity between the groups. For example, the suicide rate for those over 75 is 1.4 times the rate of those under 75 [5].

The overall male suicide rate in 2022 is 23.9 per 100,000, compared to 6.1 for females, or a 4x difference. Men consistently represent an outsized share of total suicides. In 1972, they accounted for 71% of suicides, a figure that rose to 79% by 2022.

Data and methods notes. Unless otherwise noted, all suicide data comes from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Data is accessed through the CDC WONDER database and found in the Multiple Cause of Death Files. Death numbers for 2022 are provisional and as such subject to possible revision [6]. Rates of suicide are per 100,000 population. We limit our analysis to intentional self-harm deaths, due to the reliability and accessibility of this data, and the impact of a completed suicide. Our analysis does not attempt to cover depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation, or a deep dive into suicide attempts. Nor do we discuss method of suicide.

Every statistic represents a profound loss for families, friends, and communities, far beyond mere numbers. By analyzing the trends, we aim to improve understanding and awareness of male deaths by suicide.

Suicide rates have risen across the board since 1999; male rates are at historic highs

In recent years, male suicide rates have reached all-time highs. Rates have not always been increasing this way – there have been ebbs and flows over the last 50 years, as Figure 2 shows. Of particular note, in 1999, the suicide rate for American men bottomed-out at 17.1 deaths/100,000. This rate represented a historic low for the last half century, following a consistent decline throughout the 1990s. It has since climbed to 23.9 deaths/100,000, a 40% jump. 

Figure 2

Suicide rates have been rising for both men and women over the last two decades, increasing by 42% in total since the low point in 1999. These significant changes underscore the fact that there’s nothing inevitable about today’s high rates. We further explore the growth in suicide for men, particularly young men, since this 1999 lowpoint. 

The actual numbers here are devastating

The sheer scale of suicide deaths among men in the United States should be a cause for national alarm. In 2022 alone, 39,282 men died by suicide. This translates to a man dying by suicide approximately every 13 minutes. From 1999 to 2022, a total of 737,937 men took their own lives. If the rates had remained at their 1999 levels, an estimated 114,000 fewer men might have died by suicide over this period, a number comparable to the population of cities like Provo, UT or Cambridge, MA. Moreover, if men’s suicide rates had matched those of women, approximately 545,000 fewer men would have died by suicide since 1999, a figure exceeding the populations of major cities like Atlanta or Omaha.

Age, race, and geographic patterns

Suicide highest among older men

Male suicide rates are consistently high across ages, but there is some variation. As Figure 3 shows, suicide rates are highest among men over 65, followed by relatively consistent rates in the 25 to 64 age range and lowest among youth. Across most age groups, the risk of suicide for men is 3 to 4.5 times greater than that for women. This disparity is more pronounced in the over-65 group, where men’s risk of suicide is 6 times higher than that of their female counterparts. This is not only because the rates are high for men, but also because among women the risk of suicide is lowest in the older age group.

Figure 3

This gap was even starker in 1999; it has closed slightly over the last two decades. Since then, the suicide rates for elderly men have stayed near constant while rates for the younger groups have increased across the board.

At risk: American Indian and white men

When high-risk groups intersect, the likelihood of suicide compounds. For both men and women, American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) and non-Hispanic white populations are most at risk. As Figure 4 shows, the male suicide rates in these racial groups are dramatically higher. The gender disparity is lowest among Asian/Pacific Islanders, with men dying by suicide at 2.6 times the rate of women, and highest for Black Americans, at 4.3 times. Some of the racial disparities within genders are also different – for example AIAN women have twice the suicide rate of white women, whereas AIAN men have 1.3 times the suicide rate of white men.

Figure 4

Men in rural areas experience high rates of suicide

Risk of suicide also varies by location. The CDC notes that rural counties have higher rates of suicide than those in urban metros, and analysis of state and region-level suicide data suggests the same [8]. States that are more rural, especially those across the Great Plains and West, have higher suicide rates than more urbanized coastal states, and this gap has been growing. Figure 5 shows male suicide rates in 2022 by state.

Figure 5. Age-adjusted suicide rates [9]

Rates are lowest in urbanized coastal regions like New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Pacific coast, and higher in the Mountain states and upper plains. In 2022, men in Montana had an age-adjusted suicide rate 4 times higher than in New Jersey, the state with the lowest rate. Suggested explanations for higher rural rates include a lack of health insurance, increased social fragmentation, a higher percentage of veterans, more firearms, and greater impact of economic shocks [10].


The first step towards prevention is awareness. Suicide is not a gender-specific issue; rather, the much higher risk of death from suicide among men provides important context for decisions over the allocation of healthcare resources and the focus of awareness-raising campaigns. Mental health policy must be informed by a clear understanding of trends and risks.  

[1] “NHTSA Estimates for 2022 Show Roadway Fatalities Remain Flat After Two Years of Dramatic Increases.”

[2] Suicide is 3rd after overdoses and motor vehicle accidents, which make up the “Accidents (unintentional injuries)” cause of death category along with other, rarer accidents.

[3] “Suicide Rates.” OECD Data. Some data for certain countries is more recent than for others.

[4] “Disparities in Suicide.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Due to a lack of reliable reporting on suicide deaths for LGBTQ+ individuals, we do not include them in this list, but studies show that LGBTQ+ individuals report high rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

[5] The ratios here show the relative disparity between the in and out groups being evaluated, not absolute risk. So, while veterans, for example, have a higher crude suicide rate than American men, the veteran suicide rate is 1.94x the non-veteran adult suicide rate, whereas the male rate is 4.02x the female rate for 2020. 2020 is used here because it is the most up-to-date data for all the groups presented. We have included all demographic categories available in the CDC mortality data, as well veteran/non-veteran adult suicide rates from the “2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report.” p. 10.

[6] The death numbers for suicide are typically very close to final, and the only future revision that may significantly affect the results is the revision of population estimates that are used to produce death rates.

[7] Suicide data from 1972-1998 is accessed through CDC Compressed Mortality data files on CDC WONDER. Revisions to the ICD Codes used for deaths were implemented in 1979 and 1999 and produce slight discontinuity for those years. However, the comparability ratios for suicide deaths is near 1.0, meaning that revisions to the number of deaths counted as suicide are minimal.

[8] Kegler SR, Stone DM, Holland KM. “Trends in Suicide by Level of Urbanization — United States, 1999–2015.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:270–273.

[9] For analysis across states, we use age-adjusted suicide rates available through CDC WONDER to account for differences in population age structures.

[10] Steelesmith, Fontanella, Campo et. al. “Contextual Factors Associated With County-Level Suicide Rates in the United States, 1999 to 2016.”

[11] Haidt, Jonathan. “The Teen Mental Illness Epidemic Began Around 2012.”

[12] “Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Trends and Summary Report: 2011-2021.” CDC.