Call for minimum pricing as it’s revealed that poor men in middle age are at 10 times suicide risk

From The Irish Times

MARK HENNESSY, London Editor

MIDDLE-AGED men living in poor communities in Ireland and Britain are 10 times more likely to take their own lives than men of a similar age living in more affluent districts, according to research conducted by the Samaritans.

Up to now research into suicide has focused on mental illness, but the reality is  “that the majority of people with psychiatric illness do not take their own lives ”, according to the research report published today entitled Men and Suicide: Why It ’s a Social Issue.

 “Psychiatric illness is not enough to explain it. Suicide is a mental health issue. It is also an inequality issue and we don ’t think that that has been given enough attention, ” said Prof Stephen Platt, head of health policy research at the University of Edinburgh.

Most attention over the last 20 years has gone into cutting youth suicide rates with success  – but higher figures among older men have been ignored. Some 1,903 men aged 35-54 took their own lives in 2010 in England, compared with 1,147 aged 15-34.

 “Midlife has been seen as the prime of life, but people currently in midlife are experiencing more mental problems, unhappiness, compared to younger and older people, ” according to the report.

So far the evidence of the impact of the economic crisis on Irish and British suicide rates since 2007 is mixed, with figures varying from year to year, said University College Galway economics lecturer Brendan Kennelly, one of five academics who conducted research for the report.

However, the international evidence pointed to a clear link.  “Generally speaking, you would expect to see an increase, which supports the basic economic approach: income matters, work matters, ” he told a press conference in London.

 “Banks and financial institutions where people are struggling with their mortgages should think about their actions, ” he said.

 “More attention should be given by the banks to the possibility of suicide as a consequence. ”

Meanwhile, he urged governments in all parts of the UK and Ireland to join in making alcohol more expensive, saying the desirability of reducing its use among all men was clear as an anti-suicide measure and for general health.

Many middle-aged men, according to the report, are  “now part of the buffer generation, caught between their older, more traditional, strong, silent, austere fathers and their younger, more progressive, individualistic sons… ”

 “Beyond the age of 30, men have fewer supportive peer relationships than women and are dependent on a female partner for emotional support, ” it said.

Outlining the impact of poverty, or unemployment on suicide, the report said unemployed men were two to three times more likely to take their lives than those at work, while unskilled manual workers were most at risk if they lost jobs.

Contacts: Samaritans (, at 1850-609090 (Republic) or 08457-909090 (UK/Northern Ireland); Pieta House (, centre for prevention of self-harm or suicide, at 01- 6010000; Console (, a charity for the bereaved, free helpline at 1800-201890; and Aware (, helping people with depression, at 1890-303302.