June 23, 2021 -- Men who step into family caregiving roles may be at lower risk of suicide, according to a recent study.
Researchers examined suicide among men, along with male family caregiving and unemployment, in 20 countries. Suicide rates were found to be lower in countries where men reported more family care work, whether it be for children or dependent adults.
"It appears that men benefit from doing family care work, and that can serve as a form of suicide protection,” one of the study’s authors, Colorado State University professor of psychology Silvia Sara Canetto, PhD, said in a statement. “Doing family care work gives them a sense of purpose outside of economic responsibilities.”
The study, published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, takes a new approach to examining suicide among men. While researchers have traditionally focused on public-sphere influences, such as employment, the authors instead focused on family roles.
“It's innovative in the sense that male suicide tends to be explained in terms of economic crises, employment issues, and broader context,” Canetto said. “I wanted to look at a domain of experience in men's private lives and caregiving, and how it might relate to men's mortality.”
In countries where men assumed more caregiving roles, higher unemployment rates were not linked to higher suicide rates among men. But in countries where men reported less caregiving work, higher unemployment rates were linked to higher suicide rates.
According to the paper, these findings are “consistent with evidence that where gender equality is greater, men’s and women’s well-being, health, and longevity are greater.”
Historically, sociologists and psychologists predicted that once more women entered public life by taking on paid employment, suicide rates among women would increase, Canetto said. That prediction did not come true, possibly because women remain the primary caregivers in most cultures
“Caregiving may create some resources to prevent suicidality,” she said. “It provides connection and meaning. The presence of others who are dependent is important.”