The Times- Picayune
Copyright @ 2003, The Times-Picayune. All rights reserved.
Thursday, December 4, 2003
Section: METRO Page: 01

Men in middle years likeliest to kill selves
But group gets least help, study says

By Joan Treadway
Staff writer

New research shows men 25 to 54 are more likely to take their own lives than other groups, yet few suicide prevention programs target that population, according to an expert who has studied suicide trends.

Many suicide prevention programs in the United States are based in schools, because of the perception that there is a high rate of suicide among adolescents. Outreach programs are needed in the workplace to reach men who may be struggling, said Kerry Knox, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Rochester in New York.

Knox, who took part in the research project, was among speakers Wednesday at a national suicide prevention strategy conference meeting at the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans.

Men of middle years "are a group we barely do anything for," she said.

The study of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that of the 29,000 people who took their own lives in 2000, 13,201 were men who were between 25 and 54 years old, Knox said. That group had the highest number of deaths of the six "groups of interest" the researchers identified.

The "youth group," people age 10 through 19, had only 1,921, and "young adults," defined as people 20 through 24 years old, had 2,373 deaths, she said.

And men of middle years were almost four times as likely as women of the same age range to kill themselves, Knox said. One likely reason is that men are less likely to seek help in fighting depression, which can lead to suicide, she said.

The researchers found that suicide was the fourth-ranking major cause of death in that group, after heart disease, malignant tumors and accidents, she said. That ranking put suicide ahead of HIV, strokes and diabetes as a cause of death for men of middle years, but some of the lower-ranking causes manage to get more priority in the distribution of resources, she said.

The conference, which runs through Friday and is open to the public, is being sponsored by the nonprofit Suicide Prevention Resource Center in Newton, Mass., with financing from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. About 200 people, including mental health professionals and educators, are attending.

Knox is now a leading investigator in another study that dovetails with the research done on men and suicide at the University of Rochester. That ongoing study, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, is evaluating a suicide prevention program in the Air Force, she said.

Results are not available yet, but Knox said early findings could help others trying to develop suicide prevention plans, especially for men of middle years, because most members of the Air Force fall into that category.

The Air Force found relationship problems and job stress, along with depression, were risk factors. Among factors that "protect" against suicide, the agency learned, were having a social support system and having good coping skills. Additionally, the Air Force discovered that having a policy that encouraged seeking help was important, she said.

@2003 The Times-Picayune Publishing Co. All rights reserved.
Used with permission of The Times-Picayune.
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Joan Treadway can be reached at or (504) 826-3305.