Which brings us to the heart of the puzzle. When men attempt suicide, they tend to use methods that ensure death — either with firearms or by suffocation (including hanging). Women, on the other hand, often try to poison themselves. In 2010, 77 percent of suicides among men aged 35 to 64 involved firearms or hanging, compared with 49 percent of suicides among women. More than 40 percent of suicides among women, but only 15 percent among men, involved poisoning.
Survival rates are substantially higher for those who try poisoning themselves than for those who try guns or hanging; poisoning isn’t as likely to cause immediate death, so the chances are better the person can be resuscitated. (The male-female difference in methods is true outside the U.S. as well. In one cross-European study of suicides, more than 60 percent of males, but only about 40 percent of females, used firearms or hanging.)
What remains unknown is why men choose more deadly strategies. Is it because they are more comfortable with guns and other lethal means of killing? Or are they just more determined to end their lives? Given the rising incidence of suicide, these questions deserve much more attention.