Suicide Rate by Gender: Is There a Difference?

By Gaan Akers, LPC, NCC | December 7, 2023

Gender and suicide rates have an important correlation that can place some youth at an increased risk. Understanding suicide in girls, boys, transgender individuals and nonbinary youth can help you recognize when a loved one needs help and ensure they receive the treatment they need.

In This Article

Male vs. Female Suicide Rates

Studying suicide rates by gender can help more families recognize when a child or teen may need help. Suicide is one of the United States’ leading causes of death, so it’s important to take it seriously and understand how it affects youth and how gender plays a role in suicide risk. While suicide is a risk for boys, girls and nonbinary individuals, gender can increase a child or adolescent’s risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts. 

In 2021, the suicide rate for adolescents between the ages of 15 and 24 was 15.15, and the suicide rates for boys were approximately four times higher than the rate for females. The difference in numbers was similar in 2022, when 39,255 males and 10,194 females died by suicide. 

When it comes to differing suicide rates, boys vs. girls is not the only considerable comparison. Transgender and gender-expansive (TGX) youth also have a high risk of suicide.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conducted a survey in 2018 and found that over 50% of transgender male teens and 29.9% of transgender female teens reported personal suicide attempts. This same survey found that approximately 41.8% of young non-binary respondents reported personal suicide attempts.

Gender and Suicide

Gender can affect an individual’s propensity for experiencing and following through with suicidal thoughts or life-threatening actions. Girls are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, but boys are more likely to die by suicide. Additionally, transgender and nonbinary individuals have a higher risk of suicide than cis-gender individuals.

Gender Differences in Suicide

Gender affects suicide risks due to personal experiences, stereotypes, societal behaviors toward individuals of different genders and how comfortable individuals feel with seeking treatment. Consider the following ways gender plays a role in differing suicide risks:

Depression and Treatment

Depression and available treatment play a role in suicide risks. Girls and individuals who menstruate are more likely to experience depression, which can occur due to hormone fluctuations. However, boys experiencing depression are more likely to act on suicidal thoughts than girls. TGX youth have an increased risk of depression due to the harassment and lack of support they may face in society or among peers.

Females are typically more likely to seek treatment for depression than males due to societal expectations to hide emotions and appear “tough.”

Vulnerability and Asking for Help

Society tends to encourage females to show vulnerability and ask for help while encouraging males to “toughen up.” Because of these societal expectations, suicide attempts in girls may result in fewer deaths. Girls are more likely than boys to attempt suicide as a conscious or subconscious way to express their need for help, which can cause them to attempt less lethal self-harm actions.

Incentive

Incentives to live can reduce an individual’s risk of depression. Boys may have a higher risk of acting on suicidal thoughts than girls because girls are more likely to consider their relationships when contemplating suicide. Girls are more likely to think about suicide in the context of their relationships with others, which can increase their incentive to live and reduce their risk of acting on suicidal thoughts.

Differences in Suicide Methods

Differences in suicidal actions can result in different outcomes, and males and females typically use different methods to act on suicidal thoughts. Since society considers certain methods more “masculine,” boys are more likely to engage in self-harm actions that result in death, while girls are more likely to avoid certain methods.

Gender Stereotypes

Societal gender stereotypes can play a role in how individuals act on their suicidal thoughts. Boys may choose more lethal methods because society spreads the message that males must be “tough” and that failure is unacceptable. A male may be more likely to attempt a highly lethal self-harm action because they feel pressure to fully complete the action. Girls may be less likely to attempt suicide with more violent actions because society considers the actions “masculine.”

Familiarity With Suicide Methods

Gender stereotypes can also affect how much familiarity an individual has with suicide methods, increasing their risk of dying from suicide. Boys may have more familiarity with highly lethal suicide methods, making them more likely to attempt those methods.

Increased Suicide Rates for TGX Youth

Increased Suicide Rates for TGX Youth

Transgender and nonbinary youth have a heightened risk of suicide due to familial, societal and cultural factors. TGX youth often face harassment, bullying, prejudice and family rejection due to their gender identities. These factors can make them feel unsafe and lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. 

The Trevor Project conducted a national survey in 2023 and found that TGX youth who felt other household members respected their pronouns had lower rates of suicide attempts. The American Journal of Public Health published a study that found verbal and physical harassment toward TGX individuals increases their risk of suicide by 50%.

The Importance of Taking Suicide Attempts Seriously

Taking suicide attempts seriously is crucial. Attempted suicide is a significant risk factor for future suicide and self-harm actions. Some individuals hold the inaccurate idea that adolescents attempt suicide for attention, but this belief is untrue and harmful. Taking all suicide attempts seriously can result in adolescents receiving the help they need, and it can help prevent suicide in the future.

Warning Signs of Suicide

Understanding the signs of suicide can help you recognize when loved ones need help and prevent them from engaging in self-harm actions. Look for the following signs that may indicate a child or teen in your family may need help: 

  • Intense mood fluctuations
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Appetite or eating habit changes
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Giving away possessions
  • Dramatic change in appearance
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones
  • Writing goodbye letters to loved ones
  • Substance use or increased substance use
  • Attempts to tie up loose ends in life
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Paranoia or psychosis
  • Expressions of self-loathing
  • Feeling trapped
  • Obtaining items common for self-harm actions
  • Sudden calmness after a traumatic or intense emotional event

It’s also important to consider additional risk factors when a person may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. In addition to an individual’s gender and the signs listed above, you should also consider the following factors that can increase the risk of self-harm actions and suicidal thoughts:

  • Family history of suicide or attempted suicide
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Abuse
  • Trauma
  • Access to harmful or lethal substances or items
  • Grief
  • Prolonged illness

Seek Compassionate Behavioral and Mental Health Treatment for Children and Teens

Seek Compassionate Behavioral and Mental Health Treatment for Children and Teens

Understanding the risks and signs of suicide is crucial. If you know a child or teen who is showing signs of suicide or has a higher risk of suicide, it’s important to help them receive the treatment they need. Hillside offers mental health treatment to help adolescents find hope and healing. We are the nation’s first residential treatment program to earn DBT – Linehan Board Certification, which reflects our dedication and expertise in offering evidence-based treatment. Contact Hillside to learn more about our services and help a loved one start treatment.

Gaan Akers, LPC, NCC

Hillside Clinical Education & Referral Relations Manager - Gaan has been working with children, adolescents, and families for over 10 years in various settings. In her current role, she provides education and training for mental health professionals, parents, and the community. She lives in Atlanta with her husband. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, climbing, and cooking. She is a donut aficionado and a national park enthusiast!
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