An exploration of integrated data on the social dynamics of suicide among women

Mallon, Sharon; Galway, Karen; Rondon, Janeet and Leavey, Gerry (2016). An exploration of integrated data on the social dynamics of suicide among women. Sociology of Health and Illness, 38(4) pp. 662–675.



The gender-based nature of suicide-related behaviour is largely accepted. However, studies that report exclusively on female suicides are rare. Here we demonstrate how female suicide has effectively been 'othered' and appears incidental in studies which compare female and male behaviour. We highlight how recent studies of suicide have tended to be dominated by male-only approaches, which increasingly link issues of masculinity with male death by suicide. Drawing on data collected from the general practitioner and coroner's office, we then apply the sociological autopsy approach to a cohort of 78 deaths recorded as suicides in the UK between 2007 and 2009. By focusing on females in isolation from males, we demonstrate that, as in male-only suicide studies, it is similarly possible to draw out issues associated with the feminine identity, which can be linked to death by suicide. We find that bereavement, sexual violence and motherhood could all be linked to the lives and help-seeking of the females who died. In closing, we suggest that a reorientation towards sociological analytic approaches of female suicide may help to produce further reductions in the rate of female death by suicide.

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