Monday, May 07, 2012

Increases in suicide by sex

These graphs show 1999-2009 suicide trends for U.S. men (top) and women (bottom) separately (CDC) :

Both sexes ages 45-64 show large increases over the past decade.


  1. Anonymous9:52 PM

    "Increases in suicide by sex" sounds better than "increases in suicide by cop."

  2. What is our stance on suicide?

    Consider Seneca

    Like many Romans he took his own life. In this case his former pupil Nero ordered him to do it. Maybe Seneca was plotting against him, maybe not. The point is it was not unusual. There is a reference to just this sort of thing in one of the Godfather movies.

    People often assume that the Samurai were good swordsmen - not true. They hardly ever had duels. Samurai carried two swords. One, the katana, would be for fighting but Samurai didn't resolve disputes with the long sword. Rather the questions were decided by someone higher in the authority hierarchy and the loser was ordered to use the shorter sword on himself.

    Life expectancy in Rome about the time of Augustus was only 23 - if you were free. Slaves only had 17 years. So when you took your life back then you weren't losing as much. Maybe that's why suicide has gone out of fashion - too much to lose nowadays.

    Another reason could be better analgesics. Christianity favors endurance in the face of all adversity while Islam encourages self destruction but not solo. They want you take along some infidels with you.

    Camus wondered why people at the end of their days didn't take the opportunity more often to do something dramatic. I don't know the answer to that one either. Everyone in America has had a bad experience at the DMV. Yet no one ever goes up to the counter wearing a pipe bomb in a last sort of protest against bureaucratic inefficiency.

    Slowly rotting away in an old folks home is so unattractive while leaping one last time from the Golden Gate Bridge is so lovely and iconic. Why isn't that a more popular choice?


  3. Anonymous3:58 PM

    If the female suicide rate was three or four times greater than the male rate, it would be a national crisis. The media would not shut up about it, Congress would fall all over itself in its eagerness to "fix" thing's.

    But since the male suicide rate is three to four times greater than the female rate, the most anyone can manage is a yawn.

  4. The gender suicide gap: more proof that life in a sexist society is so hard for women.

  5. Anonymous9:36 PM

    Life expectancy in Rome about the time of Augustus was only 23 - if you were free. Slaves only had 17 years."

    Yes, at birth.

    But what was life expectancy for those who were already 20, 30, 40? Excavations of Pompeii yielded many post menopausal female remains. So...

    The fact that tons of kids died in early childhood has no impact on the life expectancy of those who survived early childhood, and adolescence and young adulthood. Suicide stats presented here would relate to those who survived. The suicide rate would only apply to the 100% of the 17% who survived. Those who died in childhood then as now would not form part of the population on which the suicide rate is calculated.

  6. Not enough H-1b visas.

    Also, we can attribute the economic downturn, increase in autism and terrorism to not enough H-1b visas.

    In general, if there is an ecological problem that has arisen in the last 17 years, its because of H-1b limits.

  7. Anonymous said:

    But what was life expectancy for those who were already 20, 30, 40?

    You are asking for a cohort survival calculation. I used to know how to do those in grad school. It requires a matrix inversion. I haven't inverted a matrix in forty years. There is probably a software program that helps these days. Maybe I should look into it again.

    But this illustrates another point. When unemployment rates are reported these days there will likely be a Republican in the studio who will pipe up with the observation that things are really much worse because so many who have also dropped out of the labor market. During Bush's Presidency and the unemployment rates were too good for the Democrat's purposes it would be a Democrat who would make this objection.

    The problem is the same. Reliable and verifiable measures are biased but more accurate figures are too hard to get. And your political opponents are likely to to do more math mischief if the calculations are complex.

    So we suffer along with an unemployment rate that we know is wrong and life expectency figures that we also know are deceptive.


  8. In addition to the trend issue, the other revealing finding here is the huge gender imbalance. Maybe the ~3x higher incidence of male (vs. female) suicide is already known to most readers here, but the naive reader won't immediately grasp this from the charts because the scales are so different. If you update this post, it would sure help to put the male and female charts on the same scale.


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