Sex, gender role orientation, gender role attitudes and suicidal thoughts in three generations

Hunt, K. , Sweeting, H. , Keoghan, M. and Platt, S. (2006) Sex, gender role orientation, gender role attitudes and suicidal thoughts in three generations. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 41(8), pp. 641-647. (doi: 10.1007/s00127-006-0074-y)

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Background Suicide and other suicidal behaviours are markedly (though differently) patterned by gender. The increase in young male suicide rates in many countries has heightened interest in whether suicidal behaviours and ideation (thoughts) are related to masculinity. Relatively little research has explored the relationship between gender role attitudes and orientation and suicidal behaviours and ideation. Most research in this area has been conducted with young people. Objective We investigated whether gender role orientation (masculinity and femininity scores) and gender role attitudes were related to the reporting of serious suicidal thoughts in three generations (early adulthood, and early and late middle age) in a community sample. Methods Subjects (653 men and women aged around 23 years, 754 aged around 43 years, 722 aged around 63 years) completed home interviews with nurses as part of an ongoing longitudinal community-based study of social factors and health. These included measures of suicidal ideation (thoughts), attitudes to traditional gender roles, and a validated measure of gender role orientation (masculinity and femininity scores). Results The prevalence of serious suicidal thoughts was higher in early adulthood (10% men, 15% women) than in early (4% men, 8% women) and late (6% men, 5% women) middle age. In early adulthood only sex was significantly related to suicidal thoughts, with women at higher risk (adjusted OR 1.74, 95% CI 1.01–3.00). In early middle age masculinity scores were negatively related to suicidal thoughts (adjusted OR for each unit increase in score 0.65: 95% CI 0.46–0.93), and more traditional views on gender roles were positively associated with suicidal thoughts (adjusted OR 1.48: 95% CI 1.07–2.04). In late middle age trends were in the same direction as in early middle age, but were not statistically significant. Femininity scores were unrelated to serious suicidal thoughts at any age. Conclusion The high rates of suicidal thoughts amongst men and women in early adulthood point to the importance of understanding mental health problems at this age. The results raise a number of questions and suggest that suicide researchers should pay more attention to gender roles and attitudes in older adults.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kathryn and Sweeting, Dr Helen
Authors: Hunt, K., Sweeting, H., Keoghan, M., and Platt, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
ISSN (Online):1433-9285

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