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Around 80 per cent of suicides in Canada are carried out by men, with men aged 40-60 having the highest rates. Likewise rates of substance use disorder are very high in this demographic, outnumbering women by a rate of three to one. Moreover, some research suggests that depression is elevated in this group. But this is under-reported due to diagnostic bias, where clinicians perceive depression as a “woman’s illness,” and act accordingly.
All this could be due to various factors.
Firstly, traditionally male industries such as manufacturing, forestry and fishing have declined precipitously. This has left many middle-aged men (especially in rural areas) unemployed or under-employed; leaving them without pride, meaning and purpose in life.
Secondly, research suggests that middle-aged men experience divorce and separation particularly hard. This can be a painful process, with men often losing their children, savings, friends, home and reputation. Indeed, a recent Canadian study shows poor mental health in this group.
Thirdly, there are few specific statutory services targeted to helping middle-aged men. For example a recent Statistics Canada report noted that there were 627 shelters for abused women and zero for abused men, even though men make up around 50 per cent of abuse victims.
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