The group of men most at risk, many born during the Swinging Sixties, are described as a ‘buffer generation’ – unsure whether to behave like their traditionally masculine fathers or younger men who are more in touch with their feelings.
According to experts, cultural changes like the decline of traditional masculine jobs and lifelong marriages have challenged the men’s sense of ‘masculine pride and identity’.
Men in the 35-55 age group also tend to be more dependent on their partner for emotional support than women are, and have fewer friends outside marriage, so they take divorce and separation harder, according to the report from the Samaritans.
Working-class men have been affected by recent rises in unemployment and the shift to a service economy which values people skills. They are ten times more likely to kill themselves than affluent men.
“We’re thinking of the rise in female employment, births outside marriage, the rise in divorce and cohabitation, second and subsequent marriages, lone parent households, step-families, solo living, partnering and de-partnering,” the Daily Mai quoted Stephen Platt, professor of health policy at Edinburgh University, as saying.
“All these trends mean that men are less likely to be with a lifelong partner, and if you ally that with their difficulties in coping emotionally and being able to go out and establish new relationships with less support to fall back on than women, that makes them more vulnerable to psychological ill health and suicide.
“One of the problems for men is this need to aspire to a kind of gold standard of masculinity which is often very difficult to meet.
“The current generation of men are often called the buffer generation. They are caught between an older generation which is more silent, more resilient, less expecting to deal with emotions openly and a younger generation who are more used to expressing emotions in an open way,” Patt said.
Rory O’Connor, one of the authors, a professor of psychology at Stirling University, said this generation may carry a higher suicide risk with them throughout their lives – what scientists call a ‘cohort effect’.
“Suicide is the ultimate response to feeling trapped. The male role is less well defined than it was 20, 30 years ago and men have great difficulty responding to the challenge of how we define ourselves as men,” O’Connor said.