Men more likely to commit suicide after divorce, study finds (

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Day 160/365: My Annabel Lee


By Sarah Yang

(WebMD) — Men seeking a good reason to salvage their marriages may want to consider this: A new study finds that divorced and separated men are two and a half times more likely to commit suicide than married men.

Divorce, however, doesn’t seem to lead more women to commit suicide — a surprising finding considering the popular wisdom that women suffer more than men after a divorce, according to the study, published this week in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

“We now need to look at the possibility that divorce negatively affects men, too,” said study author Augustine Kposowa, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Riverside. Women are set back financially, he said, but “the man does not emerge unscathed.”


The difference, he theorized, lies in how men and women form social bonds. Men make friends with whom they can hang out, and women make friends with whom they can share their feelings. “Women are socialized to have more friends, deeper friendships, and so on. Men are socialized differently, to be macho, and do not have much deeper friendships. So when a divorce occurs, women have more of a social support network.”

Another reason why men may have problems coping with divorce is that they not only lose the role of husband, but their fatherly role also often changes, said Bruce Hillowe, J.D., Ph.D., a family law attorney and a clinical psychologist in Long Island, New York.

“It’s still generally the case that when children are involved, the mother becomes the custodial parent,” said Hillowe. Generally speaking, “men lose the role of being a father in a way that women do not lose the role of being a mother.”

Compounding the problem: Men often feel like they’re responsible for the failure of a marriage, said Alvin Baraff, Ph.D., an expert on relationships from a male perspective, and founder and director of Men Center Counseling in Washington, D.C.

“Typically, the man is shocked at the news that he’s going to be divorced,” said Baraff, noting that women initiate the majority of divorce proceedings. “The woman has also been dropping hints all over the place for the man, but he just doesn’t get it. He never thinks it’s as bad as she does. He’s lost not only a wife, he typically loses his children, home, and money.”


That’s not to say divorce is a bed of roses for women, said Howard Markman, Ph.D., author of “Fighting for Your Marriage” and a psychologist at The University of Denver. Rather, the findings reflect different coping styles between the sexes. “Men, in general, in the face of stress, tend to do more destructive coping, like turn to substance abuse,” Markman said.

He pointed out that men tend to have a higher suicide rate because they are more likely to use guns to kill themselves, whereas women attempt suicide with less lethal methods, such as poisonings or cuts.


Kposowa analyzed data on more than 472,000 people collected from 1979 to 1989. Of that group, 545 people committed suicide, with men outnumbering women four-to-one.

Confirming other studies on suicide, Kposowa found that for both sexes, poverty and age increased the risk of killing oneself — those 65 and over have a 55 percent greater risk than people aged 15 to 24. White men in the study were also 51 percent more likely than African American men to commit suicide, a finding that may suggest a stronger support network among men in the black community, Kposowa said.

The study emphasizes the need to adjust the gender roles expected by society, said Constance Ahrons, Ph.D., author of “The Good Divorce” and a sociology professor at the University of Southern California. But experts admit that convincing men to acquaint themselves with their emotional side can be a hard sell. “Maybe, if we go back to (a younger) age, we can teach men skills for having friendships,” Ahrons said.


Unlike prior research on marriage and suicide, this study showed that widowed and single people weren’t at higher risk for suicide.

“With death (of a spouse), I don’t think there is that sense of failure that follows divorce. There’s no sense of personal inadequacy,” Hillowe explained. “I guess in (the) case (of divorce) it’s not better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

© 2000 Healtheon/WebMD. All rights reserved


  1. My name is Peter,46yo.My wife and I now lives separately and the divorce be finalised after 3yrs according to Singapore’s laws.
    I honestly did not see it coming until abt 2 months ago that my wife wanted a divorce and reason she gave she’s tired and she’s earning more than i do.It hit me hard.
    I’m totally loss and felt very useless.Perhaps my situation is common in Singapore.But the fact is both of us hv had our good times.Who doesnt want to give thier wife and family a better life..its tough!I’ve tried very hard indeed. I also tried to talk to her to save the marriage but to no avail.YES, I admitted that 3week later, I felt very loss and tired of life.I cut myself and honestly wanted to end my life instead of thinking abt losing someone I’ve loved deeply for many yrs.Now, my family and siblings doesnt talk to me at all.I ve very few friends.I dont hv the support of my family when i m down.
    Sadly.I m sure many other guys may hv experienced or gone thru what I m going now.
    I m depressed and useless for not able to keep my marriage.Thank you for listening…life indeed is meaningless and i m extremely tired….Tks for letting me to speak out cos I really hv no one to turn to.

  2. Hello Peter, how have you been faring thus far? I am so sorry to hear about your disillusionment. If you need an ear, email I am not a counsellor but I feel you might just need an ear to vent. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There’s more to this life. Email if you feel up to it.


    1. My reaction to the Suicuide Tourist was a vartiey of different emotions. At first it made me angry, then sad, then it made me sick to the point to where I wanted to throw-up. Life can be defined in many different ways. Its like one of those words that no one can really give one straight definition for like the word love, hate, whats ethical and unethical. Towards the end I respect the mans decision on his death. He had a disease that was tearing down his body very fast. In the end his quality if life was only going to be suffering. I honestly dont think I could go through a process to kill myself unless I was actually in that man’s shoes. Of course we all may look upon it as Oh my god I couldnt do that, but I’m a young teenage girl who is completely healthy and very active in dance and the performing arts who would want to kill themselves now? I think if I looked at the man’s situation from his perspective I would do the same thing I would rather be regular dead than a living dead vegetable person.

  3. Divorced for a year now. Have three girls. Live in poverty and not much in life. I feel pretty dead inside. Used to work as an IT pro about five years ago. Lost job in a tight economy. Work in maintenance now. Depression comes and goes. Staying strong. Need to find meaning in life once again.

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