Masculinity and suicidal thinking

  • Jane Pirkis
  • Matthew J. Spittal
  • Louise Keogh
  • Tass Mousaferiadis
  • Dianne CurrierEmail author
Original Paper



Males feature prominently in suicide statistics, but relatively little work has been done to date to explore whether endorsement of dominant masculinity norms heightens the risk of or is protective against suicidal thinking. This paper aimed to further knowledge in this area.


We used baseline data from 13,884 men (aged 18–55) in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health (Ten to Men) cohort. These men filled in self-complete questionnaires in 2013/14 which covered a range of topics, including conformity to dominant masculinity norms and suicidal thinking. We conducted logistic regression analyses to estimate the strength of association between these two variables.


After controlling for other key predictors of suicidal thinking, one characteristic of dominant masculinity—self-reliance—stood out as a risk factor for suicidal thinking (AOR 1.34; 95% CI 1.26–1.43).


It suggests that one particular element of dominant masculinity—being self-reliant—may place men at increased risk of suicidal thinking. This finding resonates with current theories of how suicidal thinking develops and leads to action. It also has implications for the full gamut of suicide prevention approaches that target males in clinical settings and in the general population, and for our broader society. Further work is needed, however, to confirm the direction of the relationship between self-reliance and suicidality, and to unpack the means through which self-reliance may exert an influence.


Suicidal ideation Self-reliance Masculinity Gender 



The research on which this paper is based was conducted as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health (Ten to Men). We are grateful to the Australian Government Department of Health for funding and to the boys and men who provided the survey data. Ten to Men is managed by the University of Melbourne. Ten to Men data are the intellectual property of the Commonwealth.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

Ten to Men was approved by the University of Melbourne Human Research Ethics Committee and, therefore, been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. All participants gave written informed consent.

Conflict of interest

All authors report no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane Pirkis
    • 1
  • Matthew J. Spittal
    • 1
  • Louise Keogh
    • 2
  • Tass Mousaferiadis
    • 3
  • Dianne Currier
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global HealthUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global HealthUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Independent Men’s Health ConsultantMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population and Global HealthUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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