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Gender differences in suicide methods



Gender differences in suicide completion rates have been attributed to the differences in lethality of suicide methods chosen by men and women, but few empirical studies have investigated factors other than demographic characteristics that might explain this differential.


Data from the 621 suicides in Summit County, Ohio during 1997–2006 were disaggregated by gender to compare known correlates of suicide risk on three methods of suicide—firearm, hanging and drug poisoning.


Compared to women, men who completed suicide with firearms were more likely to be married and committed the act at home. Unmarried men were likelier to hang themselves than married men, but unmarried women were less likely to hang themselves than married women. Men with a history of depression were more likely to suicide by hanging, but women with depression were half as likely to hang themselves compared to the women without a history of depression. Men with a history of substance abuse were more likely to suicide by poisoning than men without such history, but substance abuse history had no influence on women’s use of poisoning to suicide. For both sexes, the odds of suicide by poisoning were significantly higher for those on psychiatric medications.

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  1. 1.

    The study period of Kposowa and McElvain [39] covered 1998–2001, which is subsumed within our study period, and they collected a similar number of usable cases (643) to the data in this study (621).

  2. 2.

    IRB approval was obtained from the author’s respective universities.

  3. 3.

    Cohen’s Kappa was not estimated given the coding protocol.

  4. 4.

    Analysis was limited to these three suicide methods because the other methods used had too few cases, which precluded multivariate analyses.

  5. 5.

    Specific types of substance abuse were not examined due to lack of statistical power.

  6. 6.

    The percentage of men who used firearms to suicide in Summit County during the period 1997–2006 was lower than the percentage of male firearm suicides for the entire state for that time period (51.7 and 57.8%, respectively), whereas the percentage of female suicides in the county who used firearms was higher than female firearm suicides in the state (38.3 and 31.4%, respectively). Of interest, firearms remain the most common means of suicide for females in our population, similar to earlier trends reported by Kaplan et al. [40], but different from more recent statistics that show poisoning has once again become the most common method among women in Ohio (40.3%) as well as the United States (34.6%) [41].

  7. 7.

    If we remove the cases that died in the hospital, 76.1% of their sample committed suicide at home (408/536), which was very close to the percent of cases in our sample that committed suicide at home.

  8. 8.

    Although VIF and tolerance are normally associated with tests of multicollinearity of OLS regression models, as Menard [43] argues, [since] “the concern is with the relationship among the independent variables, the functional form of the model for the dependent variable is irrelevant to the estimation of collinearity” (p. 76).

  9. 9.

    Z = (b 1 − b 2)/√(SEb 1 2  + SEb 2 2 ).

  10. 10.

    A model was run on the male subsample that included these factors, but neither place of suicide or being on psychiatric medication was related to suicide hangings among men.

  11. 11.

    Kaplan and Geling [45] found that female firearm suicide rates were higher in the Pacific region that included California than in the East North Central region that included Ohio. But aggregating data by region may obscure differences in firearm ownership, possession and use that could vary by state or smaller geographic areas.


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Correspondence to Mark S. Davis.

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Callanan, V.J., Davis, M.S. Gender differences in suicide methods. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 47, 857–869 (2012).

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  • Suicide methods
  • Gender
  • Firearms
  • Poisoning
  • Hanging